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Newsletter 131 Winter 2020   © Hampshire Mills Group



Liebig Cards



Mildred Cookson


Liebig advertising cards started appearing around 1870 and continued being published until 1975, by then having published more than 11000 different types.  Every subject chosen was nearly always in a set made up of six or twelve cards.  Trades, people, countries, music, historical battles, and many more subjects were covered.  In many of the sets windmills appear.


Most series were issued in more than one country, and can therefore be found in several languages.

The reverse of most cards advertises the Liebig Company products or even a recipe.  The last lithographed series came out around 1939, but more cards were edited until the 1970s.


The Liebig Company produced ‘Meat Extract’.  The famous German chemist Justus von Liebig was the inventor of the meat extraction process which allowed the essential nutrients and flavours of beef to be concentrated and preserved in the form of paste or boullion cubes.  An English firm, who owned cattle farms in South America, decided to start the production of the extract in 1850 and named it after its inventor.  Soon the product was being sold all over the world.

A puzzle card – ‘Where is the Miller?’ – can you find him?



This set shown here, titled ICE, has a waterwheel in one of the cards (enlarged above) powering the lifting of the blocks of ice

Many famous artists were contacted to design the series of cards which were first produced using true lithography, then litho chromo, chromolithography, and finally offset printing.

Lithography was a printing process that used a flat stone or metal plate on which the image areas were worked using a greasy substance so that the ink would adhere to them, while the non-image areas were made ink-repellent.

Chromolithography used the flat surface of specially prepared stones as printing plates.  Chromolithographic images were produced by printing each colour separately, then super-imposing those colours to make a finished full-colour print. 


Belgian windmills, clockwise from top left::

Moulin d’Itterbeck, Moulin près de Deynze, Moulin à Knocke-sur-Mer

Moulin à Hechtel, Moulin à Vorsselare, Moulin à Bevere-Audenarde



The process was labour-intensive, as each colour required a separate stone with the image (or portion of the image) drawn on it.  The stones were then inked individually, and until the invention of modern presses, the paper – one sheet at a time – was run across the stones, taking on each pass the impression of a different colour.

A series showing the history of milling  

6. Modern flour mill
4. Watermill in the mountains of Upper Austria, 1650
2. Egyptian hand mill and water mill
5. Boat mill on the Rhine, 1800  
3. Interior of a Dutch windmill, 1500 
1. Donkey-driven mill in Pompeii about 79AD

This article appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Mill Memories, the newsletter of the Mills Archive Trust, and is reprinted with permission of the author.


Editor:  Justus von Liebig was a German scientist who made major contributions to agricultural and biological chemistry, and is considered one of the principal founders of organic chemistry.  Many of you will recognise his name from the Liebig condenser which you encountered in chemistry lessons at school, and which he invented.


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