Chromolithography Advertising

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An advertisement for Dr. Thomas' Electrical Oil, ca. 1885. Full color images of cats, dogs and flowers were used to promote a wide range of products. These brightly colored trade cards were often pinned up for display or pasted into scrapbooks. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth.

The chromolithography printing process brought huge changes to American advertising. It allowed full color images to be cheaply and easily applied to metal and paper. The result was the creation of brightly-colored tea, biscuit, and tobacco tins, as well as color postcards and holiday cards. Full-color book illustrations, calendars, and almanacs were also in widespread production.

In addition, the chromolithography process generated large numbers of advertising or trade cards. Trade cards leveraged the new printing process to its full advantage. Images of beautiful women and children, flowers, cats and dogs, and bucolic landscapes were added to labels to help sell various products.