While we have all seen old ads for cigarettes, that mostly seem inappropriate or off-coloured now, it is rare to find a booklet containing an entire collection of collectors cards, used in an advertising campaign, by “The Largest Cigarette Manufacturer in the World” with “Sales During 1888 - 744,000,000”, (as it states on the back of the album). Tobacco advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry that began with its first advertisement in 1789 by P. Lorillard and Company (claimed as the first tobacco company in the world selling snuff at the time), in the New York Daily Paper. The industry still appeals to the public much in the same way today - guys being guys and pretty ladies as is.
It wasn’t until the 1860’s and civil war that cigarettes began to rise in popularity. In 1865, as the civil war came to an end, Washington Duke began rolling cigarettes to trade for profit; before which individuals had to roll their own tobacco into fine paper, which took time and thus far less tobacco was consumed. In 1874, Duke built a factory to produce rolled and packaged cigarettes with his three sons, Brodie, Benjamin N. and James Buchanan Duke.
In 1878, W. Duke & Sons Co. was established in Durham, North Carolina, as a family run business selling hand rolled cigarettes in packs of ten. The often flimsy packaging was reinforced with cigarette cards, that also conveniently doubled as an effective advertising campaign. The cards were firm and displayed chromolithographic images; such as those included in this booklet. The images portrayed jokes or funny sayings, pretty ladies, baseball players, famous actors, and more; that people began collecting as souvenirs and then began trading. This act of collecting and trading cigarette cards was given the definition of cartophily, which is still used today to define the hobby of collecting cards; be it baseball, pokemon, etc.
Five years later, in 1883 James Bonsack (from Virginia) invented a cigarette rolling machine that was able to produce two hundred rolled cigarettes per hour. With this invention W. Duke Sons & Co. formed a deal with the Bosnack Machine Company in 1884; renting out two of their machines, with a promise to produce all of W. Duke Sons & Co.’s cigarettes on the Bosnack Machines; reducing the royalties owed by Duke to Bosnack - from 30 cents per thousand to 20 cents per thousand. This quiet and exclusive agreement amongst the two companies allowed W. Duke Sons & Co. to soar above it’s competitors; William T. Blackwell Company, also based out of North Carolina (with Bull Durham as it’s most famed label), being its biggest competitor at the time.
On January 31st, 1890, James Duke, the youngest of the three sons, incorporated the American Tobacco Company, which eventually bought out the majority of large and small cigarette manufacturers around the country, eventually becoming the largest cigarette manufacturers in the world. At the time it was one of the largest holding companies in industry, in the country, and one of only 12 companies membered on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The company was divided into three companies in 1911 after being ruled as having a monopoly over liquorice flavouring, as well as violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. James Duke, retired as president and went on to establish Duke University, as well as to do other specialized work in the field of hydroelectric power.
This booklet displays all of the cards that one would need to collect in order to complete the W. Duke Sons & Co.’s 1888 collection of cigarette cards. It was a fun way to keep loyalty amongst clients, and images made it accessible to those unable to read. These cards were intended to make the buyer happy and thus associate happy thoughts with cigarettes - standard marketing. It is evidenced through the images on the cards, what sort of clientele the companies were marketing to. It’s interesting to learn of these demographics as it provides us with a clear insight into the amusements of a person smoking the generic cigarette in 1888.
We loved coming across this booklet. It seemed like an old men’s magazine… funny slang and catchphrases with photos and then the occasional pretty lady thrown in for good measure.