Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A dark and stormy night ...
and a good book

This is my new favorite piece of ephemera.1

I love the illustration on the front of this index-card-sized Victorian trade card for A&P Baking Powder. A dark and stormy night. An old, shadow-filled mansion. A warm, comfortable chair by the curtained window, perfect for a golden-haired, blue-eyed young lady to sink in to -- good book in hand2 -- after everyone else has retired for the evening.

Then a sudden noise interrupts her reading. What's intruding?

The colors. The sense of gloom and utter aloneness in the middle of the night. The expression on her face. All of that makes it a wonderful illustration. And that fact that this trade card is in poor condition, with creases, scratches and a missing corner, only adds to the overall effect, in my opinion.3

A perfect piece of ephemera, too, for October, which is my favorite month of the year, thanks to fall foliage, nights turning chillier4, the baseball playoffs and, of course, Halloween.

Yes, October is the ideal month to celebrate spooks, ghost stories and dark and stormy nights. I plan to do that often this month on Papergreat.

But back to the ephemera...

The reverse side of this illustration is interesting, too, I suppose. It contains a lot of tiny words and such. Here they are, if you're inclined to want to read them:

Meh. In this case, the illustration easily tops "Interesting Facts About Baking Powder."5

1. Who's going to be in charge of keeping track of how many times I say that in the coming months and years?
2. Maybe she's reading a good ghost tale by Sheridan Le Fanu or Montague Rhodes James, which would make her more susceptible to being startled.
3. If you're in love with this illustration as much as I am, some inexpensive originals can be found on eBay, as of this writing. Here's one listing, and here is another.
4. My wife is giving me a nasty look. The cold doesn't suit her.
5. I did, at least, find this line amusing, in its level of alacrity regarding the topic of baking powders: "There are at this time nearly 100 different kinds of Baking Powder, very many of them being not only a miserable failure as regards baking purposes, but are decidedly injurious to health, in many instances having produced the worst cases of dyspepsia." Heck, if there was a Bulwer-Lytton Contest for advertising writing on Victorian trade cards, that could have been a strong contender.


  1. I love your writing style, Chris. Very conversational, very entertaining. Keep up the great work! Also, I don't believe anyone will be able to keep track of your favorites!

  2. Beautiful! Each one is a window into the past. (& sometimes a reminder of how important our consumer protections are!) --Peggy