Marguerite Mills Advertisement Card Collection


Windsor Historical Society

96 Palisado Avenue, Windsor, CT 06095

Copyright © 2006 Windsor Historical Society of Windsor, Connecticut, Inc.



Creator:  Marguerite Elizabeth Mills

Dates:  1870-1910

Extent:  1.2 linear feet


Accession #: 1986.75.900

Location: Document Storage


Historical Note  

            Trade cards were a product of the late 19th century.  Advertising cards in colonial America had been costly to print and were used mostly to promote luxury goods.  The 19th century invention of lithography, a printing process that uses stone rather than engraved metal plates, allowed printers to create limitless, cheap prints.  By the 1870s retailers were using lithography to create attractive trade cards targeting American consumers. 

Trade cards were most popular between 1880 and 1900. About the size of playing cards, trade cards used images and witty text to advertise brand name goods from food to farming equipment. Manufacturers gave stacks of cards to stores that sold their merchandise. The stores then gave the cards to customers with their purchases.  Shoppers and their children collected the colorful cards and often pasted them in scrapbooks.

Some manufacturers designed specialized trade cards for their products, but most bought stock cards printed with generic scenes.  The manufacturers then personalized the stock cards by printing their product’s information in blank spaces on the cards. A single trade card design could advertise a wide range of products from medicine to children’s shoes.


Scope and Contents

            The collection of over 1000 loose trade cards (mostly chromolithographs) was assembled by donor Marguerite E. Mills.  It is probable that Marguerite inherited the cards from a close, older relative since collecting trade cards was most popular in the two decades before Marguerite’s birth in 1903.  The collection features a wide variety of products and focuses on Hartford, Connecticut area businesses and merchants.  The date range of the cards is 1870 through 1910. Of special interest are trade cards from the 1893 Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago, including the complete set of 12 cards from American Cereal Co, and a complete set of 8 trade cards from the Allyn, Blanchard and Latimer Company entitled “The Story of Bluebeard and his Wife.” Some of the cards feature blacks, Native Americans, and people of many different nationalities. Several trade cards have early images of baseball, ice hockey, and other sports, several fold out to demonstrate the results of the product advertised, and others reveal a hidden image when held to the light.



            The collection is organized by topic or advertised product.  Within each category they are arranged alphabetically by manufacturer’s name and then in order by the merchant’s business name.  The box list includes extensive cross references to other categories within the six box collection.  Blank (stock) cards do not have any manufacturers or local business imprints.  There are less than a dozen trade cards from other donors included in the boxes.  Each of these cards has been catalogued individually.

            A Microsoft Access database has been created to facilitate access to the collection.  Fields include category of product, product name, manufacturer, local retailer, card style, and card producer. In addition, cards were classified by the type of image.  Examples include seasons, children, floral, fantasy, and animals.


Box I   A-L


Box 2  Clothing


Box 3  Food


Box 4  M-P


Box 5  S


Box 6  T-Z, Miscellaneous, Blank cards 


Box and Folder Lists


Box 1


            Art Supplies: see Printing, Box 4


Alcohol: see Food: Alcohol and Tobacco, Box 3


Birds: see Holiday Goods, Box 1


Books and Magazines


Boots: see Clothing, Box 2


Carpet Cleaning and Carpet Sweepers




Ceramics: see Dining Wares, Box 1 and Holiday Goods, Box 1


Clothing: see Box 2


Clubs and Organizations


Coffee House: see Dining Room, Box 1


Cologne: see Perfume, Box 4


Diamonds: see Jewelry, Box 1


Dining Rooms, Coffee Houses and Restaurants


Dining Wares

                        China, Crockery, Glassware, Iron Ware, Silverware


Dolls: see Holiday Goods, Box 1


Dyes: see Laundry, Box 1


Fancy Goods: see Holiday Goods, Box 1


Farming Supplies and Gardening Supplies

                        see also: World’s Fair, Box 6




Food: see Box 3


Frames: see Furniture, Box 1


Furnace: see Stoves and Furnaces, Box 5


Furniture and Furnishings

                        Furniture, Frames, Lamps and Accessories

                                    see also: World’s Fair, Box 6


            Gardening: see Farming, Box 1


Glass: see World’s Fair, Box 6


Glassware: see Dining Wares, Box 1


Holiday Goods

                        Birds, Dolls, Ceramics, Fancy Goods, etc.




Ironware: see Dining Wares, Box 1


Jewelry and Diamonds


Lamps: see Furniture, Box 1


Laundry: Dyes, Starches, and Wringers

                        Laundry Soap: see Soap, Box 5


Lawn Mower


Livery: see World’s Fair, Box 6


Luggage and Travel



Box 2




Box 3


            Food: General

                        see also: World’s Fair, Box 6


            Food: Alcohol and Tobacco


Box 4


            Magazines: see Books and Magazines, Box 1




            Musical Instruments

                        Pianos, Organs



                        Astral Oil, Finishing Oil


            Organs: see Musical Instruments, Box 4


            Organizations: see Clubs, Box 1


Perfume and Cologne




            Piano: see Musical Instruments, Box 4


            Polish: see Oil, Box 4


Printing, Stationery and Art Supplies  

                                    see also: World’s Fair, Box 6


Box 5




Sewing:  Thread and Machines

                                    see also: World’s Fair, Box 6


Shoes: see Clothing, Box 2


            Silverware: see Dining Wares, Box 1




            Starch: see Laundry, Box 1


            Stationery: see Printing, Box 4


            Stoves and Furnaces


Box 6




            Thread: see Sewing, Box 5


            Tobacco: see Food, Alcohol and Tobacco, Box 3


            Travel: see Luggage and Travel, Box 1




            World’s Fair

see also: Farming, Food, Glass, Furniture, Livery, Printing, Sewing


            Wringer: see Laundry, Box 1




            Blank Advertisement Cards


Custodial history 

            Marguerite Elizabeth Mills (1903-1985) bequeathed her extensive collection of family heirlooms to the Windsor Historical Society. The collection contains items from several generations of the Mills and Phelps families and includes furniture, decorative arts, documents, and ephemera.  Portions of the manuscript collections have received minimal processing.


Related Materials

Scrapbooks of trade cards:

            L. P. Wilson Scrapbooks:

                        2 scrapbooks with spine label J 828 Wilson

                        1 scrapbook with spine label Q 828 Scrapbook Wilson


            Flora Thrall Scrapbook

                        Q 828 Scrapbook Thrall


            Mary Kavill Mather Scrapbook



Unidentified Scrapbooks

                        1 scrapbook lacking spine label

                        1 scrapbook labeled Q 828

                        1 scrapbook labeled J 828


Marguerite Elizabeth Mills Collection (1986.75)


Subject Terms

            Advertising cards -- Connecticut

            Clothing and dress – History -- 19th century

            Food – History -- 19th century

            Patent medicines

            Mills, Marguerite Elizabeth, 1903-1985

            United States – Social life and customs – 1865-1918


Administrative history

Collection processed by Erin Stevic and Betty Tonucci, Summer 2005

Microsoft Access database created by Nancy Clark, Winter 2006

Finding aid compiled by Erin Stevic and Barbara Goodwin, December 2005



Return to Finding Aids listing


Copyright © 2010 by Windsor Historical Society of Windsor, Connecticut, Inc.