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The Material Culture of Advertising: Treasures from the Winterthur Library’s Collection of Trade Literature

July 22 @ 5:00 pm PDT

Sponsored by The Book Club of California

Before Amazon, before big box stores, and even before mailboxes sagged under the weight of catalogs in the mid-20th century, customers and shop-owners alike turned to a wide variety of media to select their purchases, and to aspire to grander lifestyles. Trade cards, trade catalogs, advertising ephemera, and sales samples illuminate the art of buying, selling, and dreaming in the past, painting a picture of the everyday lives of Americans as consumers. These items can be quite beautiful – they were created to facilitate sales, after all – and reflect broader aesthetic trends, as well as advertising styles, cultural values, and the distribution of products historically. And beyond its intended use as a promotional tool, trade media often found a second life at the hands of 19th century scrapbookers.

The dynamic nature of trade material makes it a valuable tool for research, as well as creative inspiration. The Winterthur Library, located outside Wilmington, Delaware, holds a vibrant and vast collection of such trade material, including fabric swatch books, hand-drawn watercolor catalogs, engraved promotional cards, chromolithographed labels, and more – hundreds of thousands of items. Join Winterthur Library Curator of Special Collections Allie Alvis as they journey through 400 years of advertising and promotion in America and Europe, highlighting some of the wonderful (and sometimes weird) trade treasures from the library’s collection and presenting them in the broader milieu of material culture.

A virtual presentation by Alexandra Alvis, book historian and curator, special collections, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

Click here to REGISTER for the Virtual Presentation on Zoom


July 22
5:00 pm PDT
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