Sunday, June 7, 2015

page 23 -- Curtis Davis & Co.

updated 25 September 2015
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According to an article about the Earl J. Arnold Advertising Card Collection appearing in the

Summer 1965 issue of Food Marketing in New England (First National Stores, v. 26 no. 1 p. 23):







Cambridge History explains the Lever Brothers connection:
"The Lever Brothers Company was established in Cambridge by William Lever. The firm was an American subsidiary of an English company of the same name. The Lever Brothers parent company had been manufacturing soap in England since the 1870s. Its most prominent brands included Sunlight soap, Lifebuoy soap, and Lux soap flakes. By the 1880s, the company had experienced significant success from its product line and began expanding production to meet international demands. The firm did not attempt to make an entrance into the U.S. market until the 1890s. Initially, in 1895, Lever established only a small office in New York to handle American sales; however, by 1898, the firm had purchased a Cambridge-based soap manufacturer – the Curtis Davis Company, which was established in 1835 and known for its Welcome brand of soap – to begin production stateside (Gale Group, 1998; Cambridge Chronicle, 1902).During its initial years in Cambridge, the Lever Brothers company saw only slow and steady growth. Despite the success of the company’s Sunlight and Lifebuoy brands overseas, the firm was unable to replicate these sales in the United States. As a result, the company’s primary product early on was the Welcome soap brand inherited from the Curtis Davis Company. In 1913, however, with the appointment of Francis A. Countway as company president, the firm began to see significant expansion in U.S. sales."
In various parts of the Earl J. Arnold Advertising Card Collection, you will find information on the color printing process that made trade cards appealing, color lithography. There is another aspect of the trade card phenomenon that deserves our attention, however: artistic design. This is harder to track down, since artistic credit is almost never printed on the trade cards themselves.

I was delighted to find that someone has been researching this. Kevin MacDonnell (MacDonnell Rare Books) has written an excellent article in the New Antiquarian (the blog of  The Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America), "Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Trade Card Designs."
From this article, we learn that at least three cards appearing on this page of the Earl J. Arnold Advertising Card Collection were designed by Charlotte Perkins Gilman for the Welcome Soap trade card promotion:

"Speaking to Her Father" or
"slender man shakes hands with rotund gentleman"
(notice that the lithographer is credited, the artist is not)
"Arrival of the Baby" or
"old man admires laughing baby in arms of maid"
"the Coming of Cupid" or 
"Cupid delivers pair of Valentines to pair of young ladies"
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was not simply a designer of trade cards (the most famous of which are the six comprising the series "three ages of woman.") She was also well known as an author and feminist. Her views were publicized in her magazine, The Fore-Runner. LibreVox offers oral presentations of many of her works. All are in the public domain. For example, here is The Yellow Wallpaper. Among others available on LibreVox are recordings of:

Herland (in 12 chapters)
Moving the Mountain (also in 12 chapters)


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