Trade literature is a general term including catalogues. Definitions of the term "trade catalog" vary, but in general, trade catalogs are printed materials published by manufacturing, wholesaling, or retailing firms. They promote sales by making advertising claims, give instructions in using products, provide testimonials from satisfied customers, and include detailed descriptions of sale products.
Trade catalogs first appeared in the 18th century, with the expansion in trade, commerce and consumption. The distinguished English cabinet maker, Thomas Chippendale published a book of his designs in 1754, entitled The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director and regarded as the "first comprehensive trade catalogue of its kind". The designs were regarded as reflecting the current London fashion for furniture, and set the standard for his competitors in the market. Chippendale followed this up with a virtual reprint in 1755, and finally a revised and enlarged edition in 1762.
“Trade catalog” derives from the expression “to the trade,” and the materials were originally produced by manufacturers and wholesalers for their salesmen to market to retailers. The Trade Literature Collection is internationally known as an extraordinary source for the history of American business, technology, marketing, consumption, and design. Trade literature includes printed or handwritten documents, usually illustrated, of items offered for sale, ranging in size from small pamphlets to oversized folios of several hundred pages.
- Science Museum Library & Archives (Wroughton)
- Ball State University Digital Media Repository
- Hagley Museum and Library
- Smithsonian Institution Libraries
- State Technical Library. Prague, Czech Republic
- University of California, Santa Barbara
- Victoria and Albert Museum
- Smithsonian Institution
Ames, Kenneth L., "Trade catalogues and the study of history," in Accumulation & display: mass marketing household goods in America, 1880-1920. Winterthur, Del.: Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, 1986. pp. 7-14
Baker, T. Lindsay. North American Windmill Manufacturers' Trade Literature (Norman, Ok: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998)
Baker, T. Lindsay, "Researching history through trade literature," History News, vol. 53, no. 1 (Winter, 1998), pp. 24-27
Crom, Theodore R. Trade Catalogues, 1542-1842. Melrose, Fla.: T.R. Crom, 1989.
Culbertson, Margaret, "Mail-order architecture: Plan books and American house design," in Consumer culture and the American home, 1890-1930 (Beaumont, TX: McFaddin-Ward House, 1988); pp. 65-69
Davis, Audrey B. The finest instruments ever made: a bibliography of medical, dental, optical, and pharmaceutical company trade literature, 1700-1939 (Arlington, Mass.: Medical History Pub. Associates, c1986)
Gitner, Fred (compiled and edited by) Medical trade catalogs at The New York Academy of Medicine Library: a bibliography / (New York, NY: The New York Academy of Medicine, 1995)
Gottfried, Herbert. "Building the picture: trading on the imagery of production and design," Winterthur Portfolio, vol. 27 no.4 (1992) pp.235-253.
Hagley Museum and Library. Trade catalogs in the Hagley Museum and Library by Nina de Angeli Walls. (Wilmington, Del.: Hagley Museum and Library, 1987)
Jennings, Jan. "Drawing on the vernacular interior," Winterthur Portfolio, vol. 27 no. 4 (1992) pp. 255-279
Kernan, Michael, "Generations of old mail-order catalogs make colorful index to what folks prized and paid for, way back when," Smithsonian vol. 22 (April 1991), pp. 32-33
Kurutz, Gary F., "California commercial catalogs: from hosiery to hardware on exhibit," California State Library Foundation Bulletin, no. 56, (July, 1996) pp. 15-28
Laird, Pamela Walker. Advertising Progress: American Business and the Rise of Consumer Marketing. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998)
Lears, Jackson. Fables of Abundance: A cultural history of advertising in America (New York: Basic Books, 1994)
MacLean, Jayne T., "Nursery and seed trade catalogs," Journal of NAL Associates 5(3-4) (1980) pp.88-92.
McKinstry, E. Richard. Trade catalogues at Winterthur: a guide to the literature of merchandising, 1750-1980. (New York: Garland Publishing, 1984)
McMurray, Elizabeth. At home in the thirties: the EKCO Collection of trade catalogues. London: National Art Library, Victoria & Albert Museum, 1995. [Exhibition catalogue]
Mount, Ellis (ed.) The role of trade literature in sci-tech libraries. (New York: Haworth Press, 1990)
Norris, James D. Advertising and the Transformation of American Society, 1865-1920. (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990).
Ratner, Rhoda. "Historical research in trade catalogs," Science & Technology Libraries, vol. 10 (Summer, 1990); pp. 15-22
Reiff, Daniel D. Houses from books: treatise, pattern books, and catalogs in American architecture, 1738-1950: a history and guide (University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000)
Romaine, Lawrence B. A guide to American trade catalogues, 1744-1900. (New York: Dover, 1990)
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Smith, Gaye. Trade Catalogues: A Hundred Years, 1850-1949. (Manchester: Manchester Metropolitan University Library, 1992)
Thompson, Neville, "Trade catalogues in the Winterthur Library," Magazine Antiques, vol. 161, no.1 (January, 2002); pp. 206-211
Travers, Irene L., "Trade literature at the National Museum of History and Technology [currently the National Museum of American History]" Special Libraries, vol. 70, no. 7 (1979) pp. 272-280
Williams, Chauncey L. The dual role of manufacturers' catalogs in industrial marketing (New York: Sweet's Catalog Service, [1940?])