Trade Card Collection

The practice of producing and distributing trade cards to inform and generate new customers gained popularity at the end of the 17th century in Paris and London. These cards were designed to provide customers with information including the business name, address or description of where to find the shop prior to the existence of formal addresses, and a short explanation of products sold by the tradesman

Trade cards were an excellent marketing tool, often replacing or supplementing the current advertising practices which often solely consisted of a hanging signboard fixed to the exterior of a shop. This portable advertising tool allowed for the tradesman to reach a larger audience to more effectively sell their wares. Made possible with the advent of engraving plates, the trade card is considered the precursor to the modern-day business card and is credited with being the inspiration for the development of stationary but all marketing and promotional material in use today.

Henry Z. Steinway was an avid philatelist or someone who collects and/or studies stamps, and this passion spilled over to collecting these trade cards. The collection he so generously donated to the NAMM Resource Center features music products and contains close to 400 of these trade cards; many of which represent stores that have long since closed and are only represented by these cards. We’ve featured just a few as an example of this exciting addition to the archives.

Elizabeth Dale
NAMM Archivist & Oral History Coordinator

Dan Del Fiorentino
NAMM Music Historian