Manuscripts and Special Collections

Sell! Sell! Sell!

Records of about 60 East Midlands businesses are held by Manuscripts and Special Collections. These include electric power supply companies, farms and farmers, engineers, and collieries. The region’s strength in hosiery and lace-making from the eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries is also recorded.

The need to find customers has always faced business enterprises; the world of advertisement is not a modern phenomenon. These examples of early promotional literature show some which directly targeted potential new customers while others were used by travelling salesmen, or were aimed at shopkeepers who would order the items for their stores.

During the nineteenth century, basic text descriptions of products were gradually enhanced by illustration and novel typesettings. Twentieth-century advertisements used colour to good effect, and increasingly featured happy customers using the goods. These advertisements, which are found in collections of ephemera and magazines as well as in business archives, help us to see how people used to live and their aspirations for consumer possessions.


Detail from advert, for Amandine hand cream, Eau Athienne shampoo and Purified Almond Soap

Catalogue of articles manufactured and sold by H. Breidenbach, perfumer and distiller, 1840s [Ne C 6871]

Breidenbach and Co. of London had its roots in the Page family perfumery business, established in 1793. It remained in existence as a luxury perfumer until 1930.  This plain printed advertisement relies for its effect on the glowing descriptions of the company's products, and a list of its illustrious clients including Prince Albert.


Advert for The Saracen's Head, a 'commercial and family hotel and posting house'

Advert for George Bailey and co, Mushroom Ketchup Manufacturers from Spalding, Lincs

Local trade directory advertisements, 19th cent [MS 114]

Most local advertising cards are undated, but trade directories can supply details about the businesses. By the later 19th century, directories themselves carried advertisements, often richly illustrated. These examples, of a hotel in Lincoln and a mushroom ketchup manufacturer in Spalding, come from Kelly's Lincolnshire and Hull Directory, 1889.


Product cards for the Three-roll Sugar Mill, the Sugar Cane Crushing Mill, the Elephant Type Steamer and Rotary Washing Machine

Illustrated cards for washing and milling machines, early 20th cent. [Al D 12/1]

Manlove Alliott and Company was founded in Lenton in 1837. Its principal product in the nineteenth century, made at its factories at Lenton and the Bloomsgrove Works in Radford, was a centrifugal hydro-extractor. It was sold to laundries and bleach and dyeing works. It was also adapted for sugar refining and used in sugar plantations in the West Indies.

These product cards were punched to allow them to be kept in the company's own drawer filing system. They would form the basis of printed catalogues or cards to be handed out to prospective clients.


Advert for men's knitted wool waistcoats, jackets and pullovers

Product catalogue of George Brettle and Company Limited, 1929-1930 [BBE Box 10]

The company, dating back to 1801, was originally a hosiery manufacturer based in Belper, Derbyshire, with a retail arm based at a warehouse in Wood Street, London. The firm diversified into knitted underwear in the late nineteenth century, and by the late 1920s was manufacturing a wide range of clothing and accessories. It was bought by Courtaulds in 1974. 

Finished goods, listed here from the company's printed Price List, were primarily sold to drapery businesses and department stores.


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Manuscripts and Special Collections

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