Saturday, April 5, 2014

Object of the Day: A Trade Card for Jas. S. Kirk & Co

Click Image to Mottle the Soap

When I noticed this trade card in a stack of ephemera I’d just bought, I thought it was attractive, if not wholly German. The more I studied it, however, the more curious I found it. The card depicts two little people (I can’t say with certainty that they’re children) holding German flags and dressed in the country’s colors. That’s fine and dandy. Let’s look a little further.

The card advertises for



In 1887, Procter & Gamble began cracking down on other soap makers who advertised Mottled German Soap, claiming that they were the first to copyright the idea. So, other companies had to use other arrangements of the words so as not to bother P&G. Hence, Kirk’s use of “Mottled German.” To be honest, I’m not sure what mottled German soap is, but I don’t know how pleasant it sounds.

This card was quite well-received by the public and the design is the one which seems most often identified with the James Kirk Soap Company. It boldly went where no ther trade card went before.

Let’s look at the reverse. It wasn’t printed. However, there’s a curious stamp on it. Stamped in gold ink, we have an undecipherable name (Bill or Balls or something). And, then, “Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.” Hmmmm… Was this card once in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum? Unlikely. Was it owned by someone who worked for “The Met”? More likely. If anyone has any idea what that stamp might indicate, I’d be pleased to know.

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