Digest>Archives> Sep/Oct 2011

History Rediscovered Through Advertising Cards

By Timothy Harrison


You can see an enlarged version of this picture by clicking here.
>> Click to enlarge <<

Just as with vintage lighthouse post cards, old lighthouse advertising cards all have a story to tell. If you make it a family affair to search for them at post card shows, antique stores, and on E-Bay and then research them, you’ll be amazed at how much history you and your family will discover. It could even become a class project at many education levels from perhaps the 5th grade all the way through college; it could even become a research paper. And to think, it all started with a vintage lighthouse advertising card.

You can see an enlarged version of this picture by clicking here.
>> Click to enlarge <<

However, when purchasing antique advertising cards, be sure to look closely at the cards. Because of the popularity of some old cards, replicas have been made. However, you may discover a unique card that your research may uncover a good short story for Lighthouse Digest that we can share with others.

Here are a few lighthouse cards we discovered and what we were able to learn from them.

Moses Bigelow & Co

This old post card-size advertising card that says that it is a Price List for Moses Bigelow & Co’s Varnishes. We don’t have the price list; perhaps it was on separate cards, or they just used this as a promotion of some type. More than likely it was mass produced and distributed to dealers who could print their information on the back of the card, as was done with this fine example that recently came into our possession. The reverse side of the card says “Oliver Johnson & Co, Manufacturers of White Lead and Fine Colors, Providence, Rhode Island. Sole Agents for Rhode Island for Moses Bigelow & Co’s Celebrated Varnishes, Japans, &c.”

My first question was what is “Japans”? I soon discovered that the advertisement was referring to a small Asiatic tree that yields a toxin from which lacquer is obtained. Okay, I that was something I never knew.

My next question was who was Moses Bigelow? Here I hit the jackpot. What I found is that Moses Bigelow (1800-1874) was quite a famous man, one of those who I would call a great American, one of the many of his time who helped build and shape the United States. Although he was a varnish manufacturer, I didn’t learn much about his manufacturing business. But I did learn that he was an early believer of the fact that the railroad would change the face of America, and he was correct. Moses Bigelow was a banker and an insurance man of sorts. He was the first Democrat elected as Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and held the job for five terms. He was a principal fund raiser to help the Union cause in the Civil War, and later in life he organized the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. And that’s just a condensed version of his life.

But, why did he and his company use a lighthouse and the ship on their advertising card? Did he like the painting? Was it a commissioned work of art for the company? Or, was it to simply show that his company was steadfast and trustworthy - like a lighthouse? Other parts of history that could be researched for a little fun would be to find out what the letters NB, shown on the ships sail, stand for? Can you find a photograph of his factory, or that of Oliver Johnson & Co.? And who was Oliver Johnson and what can you learn about him? The card was printed by the American Bank Note Company, Litho Department, at 53 Broadway in New York. What can you learn about them?

Sollers & Co.

The advertising card from Sollers & Co. Fine Shoes that shows a lighthouse in the distance served a dual, if not triple purpose. This card was most likely mass produced by S.D. Sollers & Company and then sent to retail stories across the country for the individual stores to imprint their name on the front of the card, which promoted both firms. This one is imprinted with the name A.J. Woodside & Co. of Denver, Colorado. The reverse of the card was imprinted with a calendar. This card was for the year 1880.

In doing a fairly quick check we couldn’t find much out about the history of the company, but we are sure that in-depth research would surely turn something up. The earliest advertising card we could find from Sollers & Co, was 1874. The Denver Public Library has a photo (circa 1870-1880) of the store front, but with no more time allotted for this project we couldn’t find out more about the history of the store.

E. Jaccard Jewelry

This jewelry story was apparently one of at a few stores opened by a famous family of jewelers. This card was from the St. Louis, Missouri store and apparently promoted the pipes that they sold in the late 1800s. Although the lighthouse is kind of lame, the rest of the artwork on the card is quite exquisite. One story said the store had the most richly furnished salesroom in the west.

Boss Pat Cases

This card for gold watch-cases manufactured by the James Boss Co were printed with a blank area that the local jewelry store could them imprint their name on it. This one was from H.P. Bradley, Jeweler, in Bennington, Vermont. James Boss Co. dates from 1853 and billed itself as “The Largest Manufacturer in the World,” but was sold in the late 1800s to another firm. The card tells a short story as was often done in those days:

Boy - “Father, is that the electric light of which I’ve often heard?”

Old Salt – “On no, my son, t’is the Boss Watch Case, and much to be preferred.”

Boy - “Can our sailors see it in the night – will it guide their movements well?”

Old Salt – “T’will guide the sailors movements right and those that the jewelers sell.”

There are more photographs available in the print edition of this story. To subscribe, click here.

This story appeared in the Sep/Oct 2011 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

All contents copyright © 1995-2024 by Lighthouse Digest®, Inc. No story, photograph, or any other item on this website may be reprinted or reproduced without the express permission of Lighthouse Digest. For contact information, click here.

to Lighthouse Digest

USLHS Marker Fund

Lighthouse History
Research Institute

Shop Online

Subscribe   Contact Us   About Us   Copyright Foghorn Publishing, 1994- 2024   Lighthouse Facts     Lighthouse History