Thursday, September 29, 2016

Outstanding art: Lion Coffee Trade Cards

updated 5 October 2018
Lion Coffee

Some of the most beautiful trade cards designed in the late 1800s were produced by the Woolson Spice Company to advertise Lion Coffee. It appears that their beauty was not enough to perpetuate the national brand beyond the early 20th century. As detailed in the current Lion website, Woolson Spice Company, the owner Lion Coffee in the 1890s when it was a popular brand familiar to all, was disabled by corporate insiders to the point that Alvin Woolson was forced to abandon company assets.

Jim Delano of Delano West Ltd. rescued the corporate brand from the Court of Common Pleas in Lucas County, Ohio decades later. By 1979 it was sold and distributed by the Hawaii Coffee Company out of Honolulu, Hawaii. Hawaii, by the way, is the only state in the United States where coffee trees grow well enough to support commercial operations (see Coffee Growing in Hawaii). To my knowledge, at this time they are not using trade cards to promote the brand.

Going for the Goal

"Midsummer" has the typical Lion Coffee greeting on the reverse (see below).

Frances Folsom Cleveland Preston (1864-1947)

The back of both cards below looked like this.

The dramatic shading is partly original. Complimentary frame shading was added in Picasa.
The reverse of this card (below) showed artistic talent, too.
Copyrighted 1891, Joseph P. Knapp Lith, NY

Typical reverse of a Lion card, showing embossing. These are exceptionally well made cards! 

Woolson Spice had Lion Coffee cards for almost any occasion. Here's an offering for Easter greetings:

"copyrighted 1891 Joseph P. Knapp, Lith NY" (now in public domain)
Easter swallows
Doll house, anyone? As can be seen by the reverse of the cutout below, Lion Coffee's 19th century parent company, Woolson Spice, issued not only trade cards but a "doll house" series as well.

Woolson Spice Co. also experimented with what I would call advertising cards with a "twist," a variation to catch the attention of the customer who wanted more than just the ordinary beautiful card. Here's an example:

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