In the days of the fountain pen, before the invention of the ballpoint, blotting paper was an everyday essential and advertising blotters were as common as today’s business cards. Advertising blotters were small cards, usually with colorful pictures, printed with advertising on the front. Nearly every company handed them out. The pictures might be related to the product being advertised, or they could be movie stars, pinup girls, calendars, or patriotic and historical images. To get a sense of how blotters fit into daily life, read “Tips from the Traveling Salesman” by Frank Farrington in which a frustrated man tears up a poor quality advertising blotter and gives the writer a lesson in best practices for blotter advertising [Grand Rapids Furniture Record , Vol. 36 (February, 1921), p.121].
The Texas Collection has in its archives, as part of the Frank Watt collection, a salesman’s sample book of advertising blotters. This book contains page after page of beautiful advertising artwork from what we think is the early 1900s. Businesses could choose the blank blotters they wished to imprint with their advertising and place an order with the salesman.
We hope you’ll share with us what you know about advertising blotters. Can you help us date this sample book? Do you recognize any of the artists responsible for the images? Add your comments below!