Introducing Trade Cards

Trade Cards: An Illustrated History features highlights from the Waxman Collection of Food and Culinary Trade Cards—a remarkable assemblage of advertising trade cards about food and related subjects ca. 1870-1900. Owing to the breadth of its content, the Waxman Collection provides insight into many aspects of late nineteenth-century life. Not only does it demonstrate the obvious—what men and women ate or wore or how they furnished their homes—it also sheds light on the underpinnings of middle-class Victorian culture. The products and the services that people bought and the manner in which those who sought their business couched their appeals, teaches us something about the Victorians—what kind of knowledge they had, the nature of their beliefs, their tastes, assumptions, their sensibilities and their social aspirations.

This exhibition of trade cards illustrates such diverse topics as recreation, pastimes, racial attitudes and stereotypes, patriotism, purity and health, gender roles, and more. These are meant to suggest some of the ways in which these cards shed light on many aspects of American history and culture. The exhibition was written by Nach (Arts, 1958) and Maron Waxman. By presenting these possible avenues of study, the Waxmans hope that students and scholars in a variety of disciplines will be inspired to visit the larger collection located in Cornell Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections and to make use of its materials in their own research.

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