Friday, October 28, 2011
I've been intrigued by the trade cards in the American Singer song bird series since first spotting them a few years ago. J. L. Ridgway's watercolor illustrations are elegant and the printing is, too. Ridgway - whose first and middle names are John Livzey - often collaborated with his brother, Robert, an ornithologist. J.L. illustrated numerous books and his work can be found for fairly reasonable prices.
I have a handful of cards and, as you can see from the images, they are damaged, giving me an excuse to use them in collages. There are 16 cards in the series, which was published from 1898 through the 1920s by The Singer Manufacturing Company. Yes, Singer as in sewing machines. The back of the cards advertised the latest Singer products. I'd love to show those, but my cards were pasted into scrapbooks and when they were removed, well, the paper stuck to them, obscuring the ads.
There are lots of reprints of the cards out there - and Singer reprinted the series, too. The earliest versions have an oval Singer logo on the top left corner, are numbered on the top right, include Ridgway's signature near the bottom right and the copyright information along the bottom. Happily, all of mine are before 1919, so they are copyright free!