ALSO CHECK OUT: Ghost signs from around the world
Fading Ads of NYC – the book
It was not uncommon to see companies advertising constituent products for a final larger product as you see in signs for “coat fronts” and here for raw furs. It is surprising to see ginseng sold next to animal furs. I’ve often wondered about the history of this trade.
Not surprisingly, many of the things we traded came from China. Today, goods produced and bought from the Chinese are driving our whole consumer economy, which to some is a blessing and others a curse. American consumers enjoy lower prices for goods while American producers are literally digging for ginseng. What’s fascinating is it all began with furs and ginseng.
On the JSTOR Plant website, a bit of history and etymology of ginseng is offered: Ginseng enters the English and French vocabularies in the ages of exploration. In the French as early as 1750, in English in 1654, and for Portuguese, the term ginsao appeared even earlier (Holmes, 283). In Chinese, 人蔘 (phonetically rénshēn) is the name for ginseng and that roughly translates as “man root.” Even the Chinese character 人 is meant to look like a man with two legs. So there you have it. A little linguistic lesson for the day.
So, the ginseng trade has been well established for centuries and has turned a tidy profit for many, including that beacon of 19th century New York City life, John Jacob Astor. Astor was one of the more ambitious people ever to set foot on American soil. Astor, German by birth, landed in the United States in 1784 just at the end of the Revolutionary War, immediately established himself in the fur trade with Quebec, and became incredibly wealthy. Not being content relying on middlemen, Astor bought his own ship for sending his furs to London, learned of the East India Company trade with China, and immediately capitalized in the Chinese demand for furs. Hard to imagine that this woody root—once used as an aphrodisiac and currently used as a mild organic stimulant in alternative energy drinks, with claims to countless other benefits—was also the root of New York’s trade with China.
Apparently, George Washington had heard about the Chinese need for ginseng and learned there was a huge supply growing indigenously in North America. Since the only crop we could grow that would be valuable to the Chinese at the time was ginseng, which wasn’t being used widely in the United States, it became a valued U.S. export. On a Chinese cultural website, the following historical facts were provided: Ginseng helped promote the formation of the notion of international trade in the US. The entire country was connected to trade with China. Not only merchants in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, but isolated farmers in deep mountains had learned that they could be paid by something grown in the northern slope of the mountains. About the same time when the Empress of China unloaded the Ginseng at China, George Washington (1732–1799) met some people who were doing Ginseng business in Virginia. He recorded it in his diary, “I met numbers of Persons & Pack horses going in with Ginseng: & for salt & other articles at the Market Below.”
In today’s market, there is still a great demand for ginseng. Although our more lucrative exports lay in automobiles and other technology, China produces its own. In the American producer’s dig for a new ginseng, let’s hope the only commodity left to trade with China isn’t just our national debt. – Taken from the Fading Ads of New York City (History Press, 2011) © Frank H. Jump
Check out Walter Grutchfield’s website!
Previously on FAB:
- Suzy Perette – the perette silhouette – Lombardy Dresses Inc. – Garment District, NYC – Nov 10th, 2009
Check out Walter Grutchfield’s site about these faded business.
Whom You Know: REVIEW: Fading Ads of New York City by Frank Jump (The History Press) Our Coverage Sponsored by Stribling & Associates
…we see superb depth of topic exploration in Fading Ads of New York City. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a mere beautiful coffee table book; instead, it is a homage to the brilliant landscape of New York that offers ad space like no other city and looking at it in a historical context is incredibly enlightening and entertaining. – Peachy Deegan, Whom You Know
- Signs of Times Past and Passing by Lana Bortolot for the Wall Street Journal – Dec 9th, 2011
Seeing the World Through the Lens of HIV: – A workshop with Frank Jump @ NYPL East 125th Street, Harlem
— IN SUPPORT OF THE NYPL EXHIBITION: WHY WE FIGHT: REMEMBERING AIDS ACTIVISM – Visual AIDS
Thursday, March 13, 2014
- 125th Street Library
- 224 East 125th Street (Near Third Ave.),
- New York, NY, USA
Seeing the World Through the Lens of HIV: ‘The City’ Reveals a Metaphor for Survival – A workshop with Frank Jump
“Learning you have a virus that may ultimately kill you changes the way you see the world,” says photographer Frank Jump. It was with this in mind that he began to see and interact with the world differently. In this workshop Frank will share his journey bringing together, the city, art and survival and by the end you will be invited to see the world differently and have new skills on how to share your vision.
Programs are free and begin at 3:30pm.
No previous art experience is required.
Materials will be provided.
Ages 12 to 18
Frank H. Jump, is a photographer whose work has been exhibited at the New-York Historical Society, the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center, and featured by The New York Times, The London Observer, Archaeology Magazine, New York Magazine, and many other publications. Jump is the author of Fading Ads of New York City (History Press, 2011) and the Fading Ad Blog. He is an Instructional Technology specialist at the New York City Department of Education. Jump is a long-term survivor of HIV and a founding member of the AIDS activist group ACT UP. He has been a member of the Visual AIDS archive since 1997 and was the 2012 recipient of the Visual AIDS Vanguard Award (VAVA Voom).
Visual AIDS teams up with the New York Public Library to present a series of artist workshops for young adults in conjunction with their exhibition, WHY WE FIGHT: Remembering AIDS Activism. This series of interactive workshops, lead by artists living with HIV, will take place at library branches across Manhattan and the Bronx. Participants will gain artistic and creative skills, and learn more about HIV/AIDS history and activism.
MAC AIDS Fund is the Lead Corporate Sponsor of the Why We Fight exhibition and related programming.This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Hermes Mallea and Carey Maloney, with additional support from the LGBT Initiative of The New York Public Library. Time Warner is a founding supporter of the LGBT Initiative.Support for The New York Public Library’s Exhibitions Program has been provided by Celeste Bartos, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos Exhibitions Fund, and Jonathan Altman.