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Although advertising trade cards appeared in the 1700s, they did not become a popular commercial advertising medium until the 1800s. In the 1820s lithography became a major commercial printing process, enabling large runs at a relatively low cost. By the 1860s the ability to print in several colors made lithography the process of choice for American trade cards. They were included in the packaging of products and given out or mailed by shopkeepers, salesmen and other professionals. Often names and addresses were printed or rubber stamped on the back of stock cards. Large companies would have cards especially created for their products. The 1880s and 1890s are considered the “Golden Age” of the advertising trade card. Because of their visual appeal they began to be collected by the general public. Albums were produced to hold them and manufacturers began to issue cards in series to promote collecting and attract customers. Cards were exchanged and traded across the country. In the 1890s the postal rate for second class mail was lowered. This meant magazines and periodicals could be economically mailed. Their circulation exploded. Full page colored lithographed ads became the preferred means of advertising for manufacturers. This along with the growth of large department stores that replaced the small shopkeepers, ended the advertising trade card era.

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