It’s All in the Cards…Trade Cards, That Is

Often, food (and other) companies, produced trade cards in sets. The idea was that they combined advertising (“Hey, here’s how you can use our product!”) and collecting (“Hey, get all the cards!”). Of course, it didn’t mean that everyone collected a full set or that a full set survived through time–hence the reason trade cards can be considered ephemera. This week, we’re lucky enough to have a full set of this particular group of trade cards to share with you, from Armour Packing Co., c.1900.

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First, there’s the obvious: what do a monkey and a parrot getting into a brawl have to do with canned meat? That sounds like the start of a joke, but sadly, I don’t actually see a connection myself. Still, it’s a memorable set of cards.

Second, there’s Armour Packing Co. of Kansas City, Missouri. If you spend too much time around culinary ephemera, certain names start to ring a bell. When I first saw this, I thought, “Oh, Armour & Company, purveyors of canned (and other) meat products!” As a matter of fact, Armour Packing Co., maker of our trade card set, is a different company.Armour and Company has a long history that’s well-documented. Armour Packing Co., on the other hand, is a bit more mysterious in this modern age. But that hasn’t stopped us before!

In 1862, Philip Danforth Armour was one of the founders of a company called Plankinton, Armour & Company. As you might guess his partner’s name was John Plankinton. After the Civil War, Plankinton, Armour & Company was able to expand beyond its Wisconsin origins and into other markets, including places like Kansas City, Missouri. In 1867, Philip and his two brothers would found Armour and Company, based in Chicago, which started out exclusively in the meat packing business. Several years later, in 1870, the Armour Packing Co. opened in Kansas City (and was open until at least the late 1930s). So, despite the fact that Plankinton, Armour & Company has business in the Kansas City area prior to 1867 and Armour & Company had business there after 1867, the two companies don’t appear to be directly related…

Still with me?

What that does suggest is that the two companies were in direct competition with each other. They shared a region of the country and railroad transportation was reaching new levels. So, the national market would have been open to both. There is a photograph of a train car decorated with the Armour Packing Co. logo and one from Armour & Company online, both from the first 15 years of the 20th century. The similar name could have been a benefit or a disadvantage, depending on how they used it. And, it could have caused some brand confusion, but there don’t appear to have been any lawsuits between them. If the two companies had started around the same time today, we might imagine a more litigious setting. Still, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was plenty of work in the meat packing, transporting, and selling business for everyone. Seriously. We’ll look at more of that history in the future. 🙂 Until then, may all your hotels, yachts, schools, and home pantries be full…of something other than canned meat.

Oh, and if you’d like to come in for a closer look, you’re always welcome. The Armor Packing Co. trade cards are located in our Culinary Ephemera Collection, which is chock full of surprises.

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One thought on “It’s All in the Cards…Trade Cards, That Is

  1. Pingback: Hey, Wanna Trade? (Cards): Oysters, Baking Powder, Beef Tea, and More! | What's Cookin' @ Special Collections?!

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