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Java Coffee Trade Card,

Selling Egypt: Imagery in Victorian Advertising

Dates: February 14, 2017–July 6, 2017

From the late 1800s to early 1900s, the mass production of consumer goods and the public’s fascination with Egypt converged to reshape Western marketing.

At the same time, the development of lithographic printing in the 1870s allowed companies to print eye-catching color advertisements cheaply. Manufacturers used trade cards and other promotional materials to charm potential buyers and set themselves apart from their competition.

European and American businesses enhanced their products’ desirability with popular imagery of pyramids, sphinxes, and pharaohs. From candy to medicine and household items, advertisements harnessed Egypt’s association with luxury and ancient knowledge to lend an aura of exotic decadence and antique authority to commodities. In so doing, they created a one-note Western fantasy of Egypt, reducing a complex culture to visual enticement.

Curated by Melinda Kay Narro, Curatorial Assistant.

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