Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Advertising Tobacco

By: Eva Fognell, Curator Thaw Collection of American Indian Art
In a previous post I talked about American Indian imagery used on citrus packaging. Another set of vivid images of American Indians were used to sell tobacco products such as cigars and cigarettes. The colorful labels from cigar boxes are highly collectible artifacts. I came across a Wall Street Journal article from September 7, 1979 where they published a story about the explosive growth in popularity of cigar box labels both as collectibles and investments.

Early advertising labels were made using stone lithography believed to have been invented in 1796 in Bohemia. In the second quarter of the 19th century chrome lithography was invented in France using red, yellow and blue pigments to produce 7 colors (still using stones). Both of these techniques relied on lithographers to produce the plates. In the late 1920’s the photomechanical process gained popularity. It involved original artwork being photographed through a set of color filters, breaking the picture into four separate colors; yellow, red, blue, and black. This produced a half tone plate consisting of an array of closely placed dots, which were placed in front of the photographic plate. The lithographer was no longer needed.

Here are three images of a few tobacco related labels that are in our collection. It is not only in American advertising that tobacco and Native peoples were associated with each other for the purpose of selling a product. Look at the German language ad. A man wearing an arctic fur parka is smoking a pipe and the ad promotes tobacco made by a company over 150 years old. Does tobacco grow in the Arctic region? Of course not. Famous American Indian chiefs also had their image used by ad companies. It is unlikely that anyone asked Chief Joseph or Red Cloud if they wanted to sell cigars! If anyone has information about dates of any of these labels or more information on American Indians in advertising please let me know. I would love to hear from you.

Top: Joel and Kate Kopp Collection, Fenimore Art Museum. N0007.2001(046)
Center: Joel and Kate Kopp Collection, Fenimore Art Museum. N0007.2001(049)
Bottom: Joel and Kate Kopp Collection, Fenimore Art Museum Collection, NYSHAN0007.2001(230)

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