Trade card for waterproof celluloid collars, cuffs, and shirt bosoms featuring a racially stereotyped depiction of a woman dressed in exaggerated Asian-styled garb holding an umbrella consisting of a celluloid cuff. She wears and stands upon celluloid cuffs, demonstrating their waterproof appeal. Verso includes an advertisement for celluloid products along with advice for wearing and care.
In the 1860s, demand for a mass-market ivory substitute led to the creation of celluloid, the first successful synthetic plastic. Celluloid's key qualities of transparency and flexibility, as well as the fact it was waterproof, led to its use in detachable collars, cuffs, and shirtfronts. These accessories proved popular among the growing class of Americans working in offices and stores, who needed affordable options for dressing neatly and formally while living on modest salaries in dirty, coal-fueled cities. To emphasize celluloid's stain resistance and ease of wash, trade card advertisements commonly played upon anti-Asian prejudices. Some specifically invoked racist stereotypes of the Chinese laundrymen and women whose services were supplanted by celluloid. Others, like this example, evince a blurring of distinct cultural identities into an undifferentiated “Asianness."
|Place of publication
|Public Domain Mark 1.0
“Trade Card for Celluloid Waterproof Collars, Cuffs, and Shirt Bosoms.” Lithographic ink. Five Points, New York, New York: Donaldson Brothers (Firm), circa 1890. Science History Institute. Philadelphia. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/ng451j669.
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