Buffalo and western New York have a deep and rich history of German immigrants settling there. Among those settlers, starting in the early 19th century, were members of the Lautz family, who founded the soap-making enterprise Lautz Bros. & Co. This is one of their many advertising trade cards. They really flooded the market, so this card for their "Gloss Soap" is by no means a rare example. A quick search on eBay this morning shows more than 140 Lautz trade cards for sale, some for under $5.
Here's a little bit about one of the Lautz brothers, Charles, excerpted from 1898's Our County and Its People, a Descriptive Work on Erie County, New York:
"[H]e is a central and prominent figure in the industrial, commercial and financial history of Buffalo. Mr. Lautz was born in Dieburg, Germany, and emigrated to this country with his parents when he was about eleven years of age. His education was obtained by taking a thorough course of study of private tuition after his routine duties of the day were completed. When, in 1853, the small acorn of the present business [Lautz Bros. & Co., manufacturers of soap and glycerine] was planted, and which has since grown to a gigantic oak, or rather, one of the most formidable of its kind, he was assigned to a most responsible position over which to exercise his judgment. That he proved himself adequate to the occasion is best illustrated by his subsequent success in commercial life. Aside from the above firm, whose name has become a household word, and his multifarious duties, he is one of the original members of The Lautz Company, extensive workers in foreign and domestic marble. A new departure was recently introduced by this company which promises to become one of the largest industries among those of our commercial pursuits, namely, the execution of interior work in marble of large public and private buildings. A member of this company is now scouring the lands of Italy and Africa in quest of rare and unique marble. The Niagara Stamping and Tool Works, a large and flourishing institution for the manufacture of tinners' tools, is another worthy example of enterprise into which he has been instrumental in creating life."So, yeah, the Lautz family was doing quite well for itself. An immigrant success story. (For more on the Lautz family, check out this History of Buffalo website.)
Here's the back of the trade card...
The Lautz Bros. & Co. trade cards were, in fact, so popular that there is mention of some that were apparently being actively collected:
"The great demand for our picture, 'The Snow Boy,' has made it necessary for us to issue a companion called 'The Snow Girl,' which will be ready by January 1st, 1889. Mail us 25 'Gloss' Soap wrappers, with your full address, and get 'The Snow Boy.' After January 1st, 'The Snow Girl.'"I found an online image of "The Snow Boy" card, but I couldn't immediately find anything of "The Snow Girl."
For more on Lautz Bros. & Co., check out these sites:
- Niagara starch: Our history and heritage
- Mulatto Diaries blog post noting that not all Lautz Bros. trade cards were wholesome
- "$1,000,000 Buffalo Fire," story in The New York Times in November 1928 (Part One, Part Two)