Monday, April 28, 2014

Arbuckles Coffee Cards

Arbuckles Coffee was the most famous coffee company in the United States in the second part of the nineteenth century. Begun just after the Civil War by brothers John and Charles Arbuckle, the company came up with a means by which they could sell pre-roasted "Ariosa" coffee in one pound bags.

Prior to this, coffee beans were sold green, and they had to be roasted before use on a wood stove or over a skillet. John Arbuckle came up with the process where they coasted the roasted beans with an egg white and sugar glaze, which allowed them to retain their freshness. They then packaged them in one pound bags and sent them around the coutry.

Arbuckle’s coffee became a favorite around the country, especially out west where the cowhands were able to get a consistent cup of good tasting coffee. Such was their fame and wide-spread use that “Arbuckles” became a generic name for coffee. Arbuckles became known as “the coffee that won the West.”

The Arbuckle firm was innovative in their marketing, as well as processing, and they came up with a number of schemes to promote their coffee, including packaging a peppermint stick with each bag. In the 1880s they began to issue a number of series of small, colorful “trading cards” of different subjects, done with colorful chromolithography by the printmaking firm of Donaldson Brothers. Each bag contained one of the trading cards, with the idea that customers would try to collect all the cards in a series.

The series included different subjects, including animals, sports, food, historic scenes, and—one of their most popular—maps of states and the nations of the world. The state series were published in 1889 and included a map of the state surrounded by vignette scenes from the state, as well as various statistics. The verso of each card included an advertisement of Arbuckles Ariosa Coffee.

The state map series proved so popular that in 1915 the company came out with an updated series of these cards. The maps sometimes had new vignettes, the statistics were updated, and roads added.


  1. Hello.
    Do you write about how to restore prints, like centerfold etc? I failed to find any topic about this area in your blog so far.

    1. We do not write about paper restoration. We do not do it ourselves, but use people who are trained in how to do it properly. The possibility of damaging prints/maps is always there so we feel it is best to leave this to people who know what they are doing (which is not us!).