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There is no way you can have a trade card section without mentioning Brooke Bond. In Britain these are the architypal trade card. Here is a brief history of the early years.

Arthur Brooke was born in 1845 at Ashton-Under-Lyne, UK.

At the age of 24 (which is a mighty respectable age when compared with some of those earlier business pioneers) he opened up a retail shop at 29 Market Street, Manchester.

From this property he sold, tea, coffee and sugar. The trick was though he only sold for cash. This was a t a time when this particular industry was riddled with debt/credit cycles. Tea was packed as 1/2lb or full pound quantities. It also helped his business that he was determined to give full weight in all his products.

Company records show a fleet of 850 vans were delivering to 190,000 shops in the UK.

Whatever the reason, business boomed and more shops were opened in Liverpool, Leeds and Bradford. In 1872 the bright lights of London taking up a warehouse in Whitechapel, using 127 Whitechapel High Street as a company office.

Business prospered and like many business men after him looked towards America as an energetic version of Britain for new ideas and more modern working methods (and for a holiday)

Obviously Arthur was a man of action, he went to New Orleans and also Chicago. Whilst at Chicago he opened up a shop.

Rolling ever onward he took the company to market in 1892 where it was named Brooke Bond & Company Ltd. It was at this point Arthur moved the company to a more wholesale type form having taken on large premises.

In 1907 Arthur proved just what sort of go-getter he was when a van distribution system was introduced. This meant the company was no longer limited to distribution agents dotted about the map. Then another warehouse was opened in Goulston Street London.


This has to be a year writ large. This year saw the company supplying tea to the Royal Navy and gaining another lucractive contract with the War Office to supply tea to the army.

The outbreak of World War One was therefore something of a bonus for the Brooke Bond firm in that sense. Iit did mean that distribution could no longer be centered in London.

The contracts had meant mechanisation had to happen and already the Berkshire Printing Company was producing the packets of tea in Reading and from 1911 automatic weighing machines were being developed.

However the war meant warehousing in Manchester was bought and staff were quickly employed.

I shall skip through the war years with just one note.

John Travers Cornwall, who gets more than one mention on this website, was the young recepient of a Victoria Cross when he remained at his gun position during the naval engagement, The Battle of Jutland (go see) despite heavy shelling having killed all other turret crew. He was also to die at his post and the award for bravery was given postumostly.

John was just one of the many employees of the Brooke Bond firm, who failed to come back after the war, employed as he had been as a van driver.

It was this van delivery system which ensured the Brooke Bond name was familiar to absolutely every citizen of England as they made the deliveries to a nation of shop-keepers.


It is interesting to note that up until the late 1920's these vans were horse-drawn but these were replaced during the 1930's by the motorized version.

Company records show a fleet of 850 vans were delivering to 190,000 shops in the UK.

The 1930's were difficult times for many and this was also true of Brooke Bond. The company found its market share being eroded by the likes of the Co-Operative Wholesale Society.

Actually to say this was an erosion is not really to do the CWS justice as really they were clawing back the ground they had lost to Brooke Bond in the first place.

'Dividend' was the blend which Brooke Bond launched to fight off the CWS competition.

This was also the time when 'Pre-gest-Tea' was launched upon the public. In that form it was not to last long. Advertisers were always keen to associate their product with all manner of claims for health, some based on fact, some based on fiction. The same is pretty much true today, take for example, the 'science' of shampoo. Anyway the public were becoming rather tired of some of the more outlandish claims and whether tea aided the digestion or not it was deemed to be a claim which should be dropped.

The company did so by renaming the brand and it became known as PG-Tips from then on in.


World War Two was the next period of change. London was still very central to the operation of Brooke Bond but it was also central to the axis bombing campaign. For this reason Brooke Bond decentralised in the shape of seven new factories at safer locations about the UK.

Rationing affected every level of consumption within the UK and tea was no exception. This was just one more problem for Brooke Bond to endure amongst petrol rationing and the like. In fact tea rationing was not to end until 1952.

It was this year that Gerald Brooke retired after forty years of service to the company. He had taken over the company from Arthur Brooke in 1910. The running of the company passed to his son, John Brooke.


Cards were not actually part of the Brooke Bond ethos until 1954 with the set, British Birds. I often beat on about the sales incentive nature of the cards so it might well be worth going over why Brooke Bond decided to produce cards. The bulk of what follows is culled from an interview given by Michael Atkins in 1969 when he was advertising services manager of Brooke Bond, so we can assume he knew what he was saying.

Tea was derationed in 1952 and the sales management (not unreasonably) thought there was going to be an increase in sales as a result.

It was seen as important that a brand was strong among younger households to ensure it took advantage of the stronger demand then and in the future.

For this reason Brooke Bond instituted a number of activities designed to promote sales to these young families.

In 1954 picture cards were put into one brand of tea. The resultant sales were staggering and cards were extended to other brands as fast as they could be printed.

However I get ahead of myself.


There was a search for printers to do the contract. However Brooke Bond found it impossible get find a printer which had either the capacity or the desire to print 15 million cards a week.

For this reason they went to the Group printer, the Berkshire Printing Company in Reading who started the operation from scratch.

A research agency, Spottiswoodes, suggested the main collecting group was going to be people of the age seven to twelve (which goes to prove some of us never grow up, and if we are lucky never have too). This age group was most interested in series about animals and birds. It was also decided the sets were going to have to be broadly educational to ensure the parents felt justified in purchasing.

This research was updated every 2 years and sets produced were modified on the new findings from 1963 onwards. Once the subject matter has been decided for the following two to three years (which makes the four month development cycle of this site a bit feeble in comparison) the agency would then engage artists and writers to conduct the work. It took 193 days to prepare everything for the launch of a new series.

There would always be collectors which needed the odd card to complete a series once it had been withdrawn from the tea packets. To ensure everyone that wanted to complete the set could a form was inserted into the packets so people could order the needed cards.

It was hoped that this task could be completed within the week. 15 girls were employed processing 2000 orders per day for cards during this period. Over the year this section had contact with an estimated 180,000 customers.

Brooke Bond used national advertising to back up the launch of a new series and wallcharts were posted to 36,000 schools.

Research showed 60% of customers collected the cards and in 1968 collectors purchased 4 million albums.

So there you have, straight from the horses mouth, the reasoning behind, and the success of cards as a promotional tool.