As far back as the 1840s, baseball was a popular sport in the U.S. As with any tournament game, its players and fans wanted a way to show their support for specific teams and the sport in general, and so many people made their own cabinet cards with photographs of players or teams pasted onto wood or thick paper for the purpose of displaying their interests.
In years following the American Civil War, Peck and Snyder, a sporting goods company based in New York City, came up with a way to further market the game--and their business. By printing "trade cards" with famous players or teams on the face with advertisements on the back. These cards were not sold, but handed out on the streets, much like today's fliers.
During the 1870's to the 1890's, trade cards were popular form of advertising. In fact baseball theme trade cards made up only a fraction of the total trade cards. Trade cards depicted many subjects, including presidents, animals and comics. A popular type of baseball trade card were comic trade cards, which shown baseball scenes in a comical situation. Collecting trade cards and pasting them into scrapbooks became one of the country's most popular hobbies. Many of these baseball trade cards found today have some damage on the back where they were removed from scrap books. Collecting old trade cards is popular with some collectors today...By the start of the first World War, the tobacco companies had released their hold on the baseball cards, but the prize prints had long since found their way into Cracker Jack boxes, gum packages, and even boxes from clothing shops.
Goodwin & Co., another tobacco company in New York, issued the Old Judge cards, a small picture card that was inserted into packs of Old Judge brand tobacco. Goodwin & Co. produced these cards both as a 'stiffener' for their cigarette packs and to boost sales.