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Vaughan’s First Credit Card

August 10, 2009

By Amy Estes, Archives Intern

One of the most fun things about being an Intern at the UTSA Archives this summer has been the number of unexpected discoveries. Today I am sharing something I found during the preliminary processing of the Douglass Family Papers. As a child, my art teacher once asked me to draw my favorite thing and I proceeded to draw the Joske’s symbol. Vaughan Douglass’s Charga-Plate had an immediate place in my heart, emblematic of a store beloved to many.

Vaughan’s Joske’s Charga-Plate and cover

The Charga-Plate bookkeeping system was a precursor of the credit card; it was developed in 1929 and utilized from the 1930s through the early 1950s. Charga-Plate was a trademark of Farrington Manufacturing Company.

Reverse of Charga-Plate. Note that Vaughan’s mother (Mrs. J.T. (Ray) Douglass) has signed the card to indicate that she is responsible for the charges.

The plate itself was a small rectangle of sheet metal and similar to a military dog tag. It was embossed with the customer’s name, city and state (no address). It held a small paper card for a signature. It was laid in the imprinter first, and then a charge slip was placed on top of it, onto which an inked ribbon was pressed. Charga-Plates were issued by large-scale merchants to their regular customers, much like department store credit cards of today.

Background information on Charga-Plates gathered from article “Credit Card Imprinter,” Dead Media Archive wiki, New York University Department of Media, Culture, and Communication. (Accessed August 10, 2009.)

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