British Cigarette Card Collection

ca. 1910–1939
1 album, 7.5 x 9 inches; 360 cards

C1:003 British Cigarette Card Collection

With the invention of wrapping machines in the 19th century, pieces of plain card were used as protective stiffeners to protect the contents of paper packages. By the late 1870s in the United States, Allen & Ginter were embellishing these inserts with advertisements and illustrations. This quickly became an efficient and creative means of cultivating brand loyalty, and the practice spread rapidly to Great Britain and other foreign manufacturers. By the 1890s, many of the larger British tobacco companies were issuing cards, and they soon progressed to series on particular themes: actresses, soldiers, ships, kings and queens, etc.

The outbreak of war in 1914 inspired many patriotic card issues. Multiple influences were at work: the spontaneous expression of national pride; a desire to help the war effort; an insatiable public craving for news, particularly good news and information; a wish to glorify the heroism of British forces; and a determination to demonstrate the supporting role of civilians on the home front. Three of the seven sets in the British Cigarette Card Collection represent this time period: Army Life (October 1910), Regimental Uniforms (July 1912 and July 1914), and Military Motors (October 1916).

The popularity of cigarette cards grew during the 1920s and 1930s. Many of the sets issued during this time were reissues of earlier series with a timeless appeal. Drum Banners & Cap Badges (September 1924), Military Head-Dress (March 1931), and British Military Uniforms presented by Mornflake Oats are typical series based on historical themes. In the 1930s, as the signs of approaching conflict became more intense, themes with a military flavor took on an increasingly important role. There were those that emphasized knowledge and awareness of wartime matters, such as Uniforms of the Territorial Army, issued by John Player & Sons in October 1939. In 1940 cigarette cards were officially banned by the British wartime government as an unnecessary and wasteful use of raw materials. The issuing of cigarette cards was not widely revived following World War II, perhaps because of the cost.

C1:003 British Cigarette Card Collection

Arrangement and access:
The cards, mounted in a vintage album, are organized by series: Army Life (October 1910, John Player & Sons), Regimental Uniforms (July 1912 and July 1914, John Player & Sons), Military Motors (October 1916, W. D. & H. O. Wills), Drum Banners & Cap Badges (September 1924, John Player & Sons), Military Head-Dress (March 1931, John Player & Sons), Uniforms of the Territorial Army (October 1939, John Player & Sons), British Military Uniforms (date unknown, presented by Mornflake Oats). 

Provenance:  Purchase, 1960 

4 thoughts on “British Cigarette Card Collection”

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