Attractive Trade Cards Advertised Cecil County Products in the Late 19th Century

After the Civil War retail trade boomed in the United States and every community of almost any size had a lively business district where a range of retailers competed for business.  To help promote commerce, merchants passed out colorful trade cards to potential customers.  These attractively illustrated, brightly colored pieces of advertising were similar to today’s business card.  By the 1880s the items and heavy paper-stock were a major advertising method for merchants and they were popular.   Collectors of Cecil County ephemera are able to find a number of these eye-catching printed pieces.  Here were two that were issued in Elkton.  Many more were distributed throughout the county.

Ball's Oak Hall Clothing House, a trade card issued in Elkton, MD.

Ball’s Oak Hall Clothing House, a trade card issued in Elkton, MD.

A trade card from Ward and Davis, the "Elkton Shore Store."  Source:  Private Collection

A trade card from Ward and Davis, the “Elkton Shore Store.” Source: Private Collection

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