Monday, August 10, 2009

A Shot of Color

While color trade cards abound and the black and white versions are rarer, that is the exact opposite for billheads. As the popularity of trade cards died out, color became more popular on billheads. Also probably due to the decreasing cost of using color and the increasing importance o billheads as a means of advertising to companies. See below for some neat examples.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Storefront Graphic then and now

Recently, on a buying trip to my favorite paper dealer I purchased a 1885 billhead for John Pritzlaff Hardware Company (Limited) – Hardware, Iron & Metals located at 41, 43, 45, 47 & 49 West Water Street in Milwaukee Wisconsin. The left side of the billhead has a nice storefront graphic. John Pritzlaff was a Prussian immigrant who arrived in Milwaukee in 1841. In 1850, he started a hardware company. In 1884 the company was incorporated as the John Pritzlaff Hardware Co., and eventually it became one of the leading wholesale hardware firms in the Midwest. His son, Frederick Pritzlaff became president of the John PritzIaff Hardware Co. on his father's death, and served in this capacity from 1900 to 1951.When I was researching this billhead on google, I came across the Milwaukee Streets blog which had an indept article on the Pritzlaff building today and its restoration. I thought it was really neat to compare the storefront graphic on the billhead to the actual building.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Whaling Billheads

A very popular billhead collecting area is billheads related to the whaling industry in America. In the 19th century, the whaling industry was one of the most prominent businesses in the U.S. Oil obtained from a whales blubber has been used for both lighting and lubricating purposes, and the bones of the whale were used to make a variety of useful products. In the early 19th century, a typical American household might contain several items manufactured from whale products, such as candles or corsets made with whalebone stays.

In the 1700s, American colonists began developing their own whale fishery. Islanders from Nantucket, who had taken to whaling because their soil was too poor for farming, killed their first sperm whale in 1712.

By the early 1800s, whaling ships from New England were setting out on very long voyages to the Pacific Ocean in search of sperm whales. Some of these voyages could literally last for years. A number of seaports in New England supported the whaling industry, but one town, New Bedford, Massachusetts, became known as the world’s center of whaling. Of the more than 700 whaling ships on the world’s oceans in the 1840s, more than 400 called New Bedford their home port. Wealthy whaling captains built large houses in the best neighborhoods, and New Bedford was known as "The City that Lit the World."
The Golden Age of American whaling extended into the 1850s, and what spelled its demise was the invention of the oil well. With oil extracted from underground being refined into kerosene for lamps, the demand for whale oil plummeted. And while whaling continued, as whalebone could still be used for a number of household products, the era of the great whaling ships faded into history. Whaling, with all its hardships and peculiar customs, was immortalized in the pages of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick.