1930s Ty-phoo Tea Trade Cards’ Odd Link to Sports
What do golf and tennis have to do with Ugandan cotton or Australian wool?
In 1903, a brand of tea named Ty-phoo (now known as Typhoo) tea was created. According to Wikipedia, it was launched by an English chap whose grandfather made trips to China from London. The name Typhoo comes from the Chinese word for ‘doctor.’
Like many businesses in the pre-war era, Ty-phoo created trade cards to promote their product. Almost all of these trade cards were non-sports related, covering an assortment of topics. But at least a few have a link to sports — in particular, golf and tennis. Technically, these would be classified as tea cards. Jefferson Burdick didn’t have a separate categorization for those in his American Card Catalog but lumped some in with Coffee Cards (K-Cards).
I recently purchased a set of Ty-phoo’s 1939 cards called, “Important Industries of the British Empire.” The cards have colorful pictures on the fronts along with a description of a particular import. For example, a card for the Bahamas details how sponges were the country’s chief export. Cotton is cited as Uganda’s chief crop. Australia was home of wool producing. This goes on for a total of 25 cards in the set and, no, I’m not going to bore you with all of them.
But that isn’t why I bought the set, obviously. I don’t really ‘do’ non-sports stuff and I was more interested in what was on the back.
The backs of these cards have all sorts of things going on. The bottom gives Ty-phoo’s address along with a number of catchy slogans. In all, I’ve seen a total of 13 different ones that range from reasonable, common phrases to those that have you scratching your head to, well, the borderline ridiculous:
- Ty-phoo Tea saves you money and pleases you, too
- Ty-phoo Tea is so pure it cannot harm the weakest nerves
- Ty-phoo Tea is the tea that doctors recommend for weak digestions
- Ty-phoo Tea consists mainly of the delicate edges of the leaf
- Ty-phoo Tea is so rich in natural juices that it goes ‘just half as far again’
- Ty-phoo Tea is grown upon the mountains of Ceylon
- Ty-phoo Tea is so different! Note its mildness, its perfect blandness.
- Ty-phoo Tea may cost a little more, but it goes much further.
- Ty-phoo Tea. One quality, THE BEST, and one price only.
- Ty-phoo Tea does not cause indigestion.
- Ty-phoo Tea. There is real economy in the richness of its brew.
- Ty-phoo Tea is highly recommended by the nursing profession.
- Ty-phoo Tea is the safe tea for invalids. Doctors recommend it!
I bought more than one set of these and have many duplicates but there could be even more back types.
At any rate, in addition to that are two offers for golf and tennis products. Consumers can buy a tennis racket, a package of six tennis balls, or a package of four golf balls. In addition to some British currency, a customer also was required to send some proof of purchase coupons from Ty-phoo’s tea products.
The back illustrations show a tennis player and a golfer. A few other Ty-phoo sets included offers for golf balls and tennis balls. These are the only ones I’ve seen with actual pictures of the athletes, though. One of the cool things I love about these cards are the blue ink advertisements.
A note of interest is that the tennis balls were said to be ‘To L.T.A. standard.’ The LTA in question here would be the Lawn Tennis Association, which is the governing body of tennis in Great Britain.
The weird thing is that these are just really random products for a tea company. Ty-phoo produced other types of sets and included other offers on those. Many times, the products offered on the backs had something to do with the set. For example, a Shakespearian set offered a book with Shakespeare’s works. A Swiss Family Robinson set offered a Swiss Family Robinson book.
Offering tennis balls and golf balls on these cards just seems sort of, odd? Still, these can be bought for about $1-$3 a card and they’re a cheap way to add some unique, old golf and tennis to your collection.