A Bell Piano. 

This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Lx 121 and is freely available at //'snamedetail.JPG under the creative commons cc-by-sa 3.0 license. No changes have been made to the original image. 


This trade card was made for W. Bell & Co., a piano and organ company from Guelph, Ontario. Established in 1864, William and Robert Bell owned the company and worked alongside three other staff members. As time passed, W. Bell & Co. became popular and widespread, having locations as far reaching as England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In 1888, the name of the company was changed to The Bell Organ and Piano Co, Ltd (Hayes, 2013).

Since the company wasn’t started until 1864, and the business name on the trade card is W. Bell & Co, this suggests that the trade card couldn’t have been printed before 1864, and wasn’t printed after the business changed names in 1888, making the window of production between 1864-1888. Upon further research, in the Bell Piano Newsletter from June 2006 (the company's newsletter available on their website) there are other trade cards showing dates from 1880 and 1885, and this suggests an even narrower window of production if the trade cards were produced around the same time ("Bell Piano Newsletter", 2006).

Unfortunately, there is no publisher or printer found anywhere on the card. The only information is the name of the business, which to the consumer or reciever of the card would be the most important thing. 


An example of a lithography press.

This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Chris 73 and is freely available at // under the creative commons cc-by-sa 3.0 license. No changes have been made to the original image.

Trade cards were typically made by a process called chromolithography (Rubin, 2008). This method was popular for its inexpensive and vibrant results. It was a new form of colour printing using metal plates, an engraver, and a calligrapher for the type and font. After the engraver made the design on the metal plate, it would be covered with ink and the paper the design was to be printed on rolled under a press. The design would transfer and the card would be hung to dry (Hubbard, 2012). 

This particular trade card has no printer company name or location, so it is difficult to say exactly where it was produced. While the two most likely places would be Canada or England, W. Bell & Co. was so global that it could have been printed anywhere in the world. 

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