Sandburg's Hometown

March 10, 2014

Duke Cigarette Card for Thomas A. Edison

Trade Cards
by Barbara Schock

In his autobiography, Always the Young Strangers, Carl Sandburg wrote a twelve-page chapter entitled “Cigarette Biographies.” The biographies were small, 2 3/4 inches by 1 ½ inches with a shiny cover and small print. Some told the history of Civil War generals. Others described the lives of famous actors and well-known tycoons. They were included in each package of Duke’s cigarettes.

Duke’s cigarettes were expensive at a dime a pack (equal to $2.52 in today’s money). Sandburg and his young friends purchased Virginia Cheroots for a penny a piece. They learned at school that tobacco contained nicotine and it was a poison. They called cheroots coffin nails and smoked them anyway.

Sandburg wanted to collect as many of the biographies as he could. He found several men who bought Duke’s cigarettes. He asked them to give him the pamphlets from the package. Eventually, he had collected eight of them which he could carry in his vest pocket.

The custom of giving a free item with a purchase was not new. Merchants have always wanted to remind customers of their business location and the type of merchandise for sale. Yardsticks and cardboard fans come to mind as reminders of prominent businesses of the past in many communities. A small printed card fit in a pocket and was easy for the customer to keep.

Trade cards came into use in the eighteenth century. With the invention of lithography in the 1870s, trade cards became a widely used form of advertising. Printers used a variety of colors and intricate illustrations to promote the use of trade cards. Stock card designs were available on which the merchant could have his business name and address printed. Salesmen carried notebooks of trade card designs from which the businessman could select the style of trade card he wished to use. There were so many given out by businesses that individuals began collecting them and pasting them in albums.

The most heavily advertised products were patent medicines, food, tobacco, household items, stoves, clothing and farm equipment.

At the turn of the twentieth century, cards portraying baseball players and their biographies became quite popular. In recent years, some of the rare cards have sold for millions of dollars.

Visiting cards were also popular in the 1890s. Individuals left their card at the home of a friend or acquaintance to indicate a call had been made. A silver tray on a table near the front door contained the cards which had been left, especially on New Year’s Day.

Today businessmen hand out cards to extend their network of contacts. The cards include the name, address, telephone number and e-mail address. They may or may not have an illustration. The business person may have printed his or her cards with a computer.

As many other forms of advertising came into being, the trade cards faded into collections in museums.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity