Japanese Influences on American Advertising: Card Imagery and Design, 1875-1890

By Beckman, Thomas | Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA), Spring 1996 | Go to article overview

Japanese Influences on American Advertising: Card Imagery and Design, 1875-1890


Beckman, Thomas, Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)


The economic news of the 1980s was that Japan had begun to conquer America. The Aesthetic news of the 1880s was identical. This article will examine the use of Japanese design concepts, Japanese imagery, and references to Japan itself on American trade cards from 1875 to 1890. It is concerned with a now obsolete form of advertising-the trade card-and the use of visual references to a then unfamiliar and exotic culture in promoting products and services both nationally and locally.1

"From 1873 to 1898 excess capacity in the American economy was chronic and it afflicted virtually every industry...excess capacity to mill flour, to make watches, to manufacture stoves" (Ginger 55, 57). This was a period of declining prices, with major economic depressions in the years 1873-76, 1884, and 1893-97. During 1870s, with overproduction widespread, the goal of advertising began to change "from an emphasis on providing information to an attempt to influence buyers by any means possible" (Strasser 91). The trade card was the preferred method for obtaining publicity and generating good will from the time into the 1890s.

Trade cards of the later nineteenth century are individual advertisements produced on lightweight card stock, ranging in size from about the dimensions of a modern business card to approximately those of a postcard. They are almost invariably illustrated, usually by chromolithography, on one side only. The verso, and often a space on the recto as well, was left blank for the user to have this own text added by letterpress or rubber stamp. Trade cards were produced in prodigious numbers, made possible by steam powered presses, and were intended for free distribution to the general public by merchants and manufacturers, in much the same way that bookshops give away bookmarks or restaurants offer free matches today. Because they were colorful and attractive they were collected and preserved-commonly in albums-and hundreds of thou- sands have survived, making this study possible.

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, manufacturers frequently offered their products without a developed advertising plan or definable set of marketing principles. They were only beginning to see the advantages of brand names, trademarks, and visual identities for their goods. An estimated 98 percent of all trade cards are of the "stock" variety-i.e., not custom-designed for the individual user-and thus the product or service advertised often has no relationship to the image on the card (Dilg: 1). An 1889 advertising manual recommended that "when ordering in quantities exceeding twenty thousand, little additional expense will permit the chromo being specially designed; but unless a very large number be desired, the so-called stock chromos will, considering the price, do as well" (Fowler, About Advertising and Printing 103).2 Trade cards are often unsigned by the lithographing companies that produced them, and their artists or designers are almost never identified (for an exception see Fig. 1).3 The cards were issued by lithographers both famous and obscure, as single or series designs (Fig. 2), and were usually sold to advertisers through agents or middlemen, including printers and stationery stores. They were even offered directly to collectors, who sometimes referred to them as picture cards.

The use of trade cards declined markedly during the 1890s, their importance as an advertising medium eclipsed by the mass circulation magazines (Strasser 165; Jay 99-101). Fowler's Publicity, a one thousand page text on advertising produced in 1899, discusses everything from newspapers and periodicals to billboards and fence painting to samples and hand-bills, but makes no mention of the trade card. Its author, who commenced his career "at the beginning of art in commercial lithography," noted that by the late 1890s lithography was "almost exclusively confined to advertising [via posters] and illustrating the higher grade of books. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Japanese Influences on American Advertising: Card Imagery and Design, 1875-1890
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.