Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Banner Ladies

Happy Wednesday!

Today's post isn't about textiles.  But it is interesting.  As many of you know, I collect trade cards and other paper bits and bobs.  But the one kind of trade card I could never afford are ones that depict Banner Ladies.  These cards go for $500 to well over $1000 and well, that's too rich for me to spend on a small piece of paper.  I prefer a good bargain.

Banner Ladies were a popular form of advertising in the late 19th century.  Photography became more accessible after George Eastman innovated the camera to use flexible film that the company would even develop for the customer.  Previous to this invention, film development was often dangerous.  So photography became more popular...and trade cards reflect that.  

Enter the Banner Ladies.  They were human billboards that advertised all kinds of businesses. 

This one is somewhat charming, made to promote Mrs. Kirkbride's milliner business:

Another sweet one advertised the local florist:

But for the most part, the banners are campy and even ridiculous ways to get folks to notice the company.   Hats were really prominent....Like for the local blacksmiths:

None of these women look really thrilled to be donned in these costumes but that was also the norm of the day.  Late 19th century photos rarely capture smiling or laughing folks.

One of my favorites was from Lebanon, PA  She is missing her banner but we forgive her because we love pretzels:

Here's one for "Artistic Photography"
I'm not really sure what the Golden Rule Bazaar sold, maybe toys?

Let's not forget the hardware store:

So do you have thoughts about banner ladies?
I find them fascinating and always think of the definition of objectify:  degrade to the status of a mere object.  Of course maybe it was all just fun like grown-ups dressing up for Halloween.  Your thoughts?

Have a safe and happy day!


  1. not sure I understand the attraction which makes them so expensive! I don't think they are degrading to the women...when I see some of the photos of other types of advertising. I do love the pretzel lady's hat ;)

  2. I have never seen anything like this. So unusual!