A Few 19th Century Cards

So it looks like my Kodak Rookie Card whet my appetite for other Arbuckle’s Coffee cards. They’re not sets I ever intend to build but it turns out that there are a number of cards that are of interest to me. I recently picked up a couple more of them which take my collection a bit further into the 19th century.

Some of the interesting cards are the State cards. There are two sets of US States, this California card is from the Arbuckle’s 1889 State and Territory Maps. There’s another more picture-based state card as well* but it was running quite a bit more than I felt like spending.

*1892 Pictorial History of US States and Territories.

In addition to being fun to more the collection into the 1890s, it’s a nice card with a bunch of neat things going on.  I don’t want to draw a lot of attention to the map but  it’s interesting to me that there’s nothing about transportation on it. Yes we’re pre-cars and highways but there are no train lines depicted. Instead it looks like everything is on a waterway and man oh man is that a lot of water draining through the Central Valley. It’s also worth pointing out that Tulare Lake is depicted albeit in green instead of blue since its demise was imminent by 1889.

The pictures are also great. I love the image of Fort Point looking North across the bridgeless Golden Gate. The wine industry image is fun as well and of course we have to have a collection of all the wonderful fruits—cherries, berries, pears, peaches, plums, and, I think, apricots—that California has to offer. Both the wine barrels and hills and water of the Golden Gate also show how well lithographic stippling enhances the images compared to a modern halftone screen.

Since Hawai‘i hadn’t been annexed by the United States yet it doesn’t show up in any of the States sets. It does however show up in the 1893 History of Sports and Pastimes of all Nations set that my Kodak/US card comes from as well as the 1891 Views From a Trip around the World set.

I don’t like the 1893 card because for some reason half of it is dedicated to crocodile hunting. Not sure what country Arbuckle’s was thinking of since no crocodiles live in Hawai‘i but yeah. The 1891 card though is actually a  Honolulu and includes it as part of a tour of 50 world cities.* Honolulu is a great choice at this time since the ‘Iolani Palace is a noteworthy building due to it being one of the first buildings in the world to be electrified.

*The only US cities are New York and Boston which makes it wonderfully international although almost half the cities are either in Europe or the Mediterranean.

So yeah I dig the artwork here. A nice image of the palace as well as the Avenue of Royal Palms at the Queen’s Medical Center. All kinds of fantastic foliage. A great sunset photo of downtown Fort Street. The two pictures of “natives” intrigue me since Hawai‘i had spent most of the 19th century trying to  become western (King David Kalakaua who died right when this card was being printed is always depicted in western dress). I know that such images would not be as interesting to Arbuckle’s customers though and in this age where cards like this were really all that you got to see of places abroad I can see why they’d choose more exotic images.

The backs of these two cards are very similar with half the card dedicated to advertising coffee and explaining why Arbuckle’s is superior (I do wonder where they got their beans from though).

The back of the California card includes the checklist where you can see that there are only 40 US States in addition to 8 territories, plus Alaska and DC. The fact that North and South Dakota seem to be states while Montana is not leaves a 6-day window (November 2–8, 1889) for the checklist to be correct. Also it’s worth pointing out that North and South Dakota only came into being as territories on February 22, 1889.

Instead of a checklist on the Hawai‘i card we’ve got a ton of text describing the front. The first paragraph about the political climate is kind of wild in how it ascribes the agreement for independence being accomplished by tricksters and focuses on how the monarchs have succumbed to western diseases. More interesting are the comments about “republican desire” which I assume to be a reference to the Bayonet Constitution and can’t help but read as predicting the coup in 1893. A bit disingenuous to call a republic the “islanders’ hope” though when it was all being engineered by the plantation owners.

The second paragraph is a nice description of the geography of Honolulu (no mention of electricity though) but man does it end with a bunch of racist colonial crap about the islanders being quick to learn, just as quick to forget, and lacking in cultured ancestry.

In addition to the Arbuckles I also picked up this 1887 Allen & Ginter Flags of All Nations card of Hawai‘i. I’ve wanted this card for a while and it’s great to have one which, while creased, has no paper loss and presents very well. As an 1887 release it’s officially the oldest card in my collection.

The birds are clearly meant to be specific to Hawai‘i but I don’t know what they are.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

5 thoughts on “A Few 19th Century Cards”

  1. I’ve thought about picking a few of these up before, but as of now, that’s all it’s been, a thought. I know that history isn’t that popular of a subject these days, but I’m still surprised that I don’t hear about more people collecting these, especially too since a lot of them can still be had for not very much money.

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