As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, May 2006 

Cigar box label with children as the subject

Smoking may be bad for your health but, now is a good time to collect tobacco art. Most is still affordable and comes in a variety of forms. It can turn up anywhere.

During the 19th century, the effects of smoking weren’t seen as a health threat. In fact it was a combination of changing fashion and printing technologies, mainly lithography, that had cigar and cigarette manufacturers, packagers and retailers competing for both women and men’s attention. This resulted in a dramatic and colorful new art form used to sell tobacco products. While most of the printing was done in Germany it had been introduced to Cuba in 1822.

The art was aimed at just about every type of consumer. To attract men cigar wrappers depicted shapely women, factories and countryside landscapes.

For women the motifs were birds, butterflies and flowers with gilt, embossed trim.

In the 1880s fine cigars were a status symbol. Tobacconists pushed the snob appeal by sending choicest Havana cigars to celebrities, industrialists and tycoons, with the name of his country estate, yacht or initials on both the band and the labels.

Brand names included, “Clubman’s Favorite” and “Lady’s Friend.” As many as twenty two different lithograph stones and colored inks were used, along with embossing.

For real status some cigar manufacturers put their wives, children and other family members pictures on the cigar bands and box labels. Often within an elaborate, embossed silver or gilt paper lithographed frame.

Portrait bands are an entire collecting category that included popular actresses and royalty of the era, along with long forgotten political figures.

Among the most eye-catching cigar labels are the creatures of prey and other animals, along with various species of birds. They were plagerized from John James Aububon’s books.

Cigar Box label taken from an illustration done by American Illustrator Maxfield Parrish

Cigar bands had a serious as well as decorative purpose. They protected expensive cigars from being counterfeited. Their use began in 1854 when H. Anton Bock, a tobacconist, noticed a poor quality cigar in a box supposedly of his manufacture. He designed a small paper circlet and attached itto his cigars. A new collecting craze was born out of necessity. By the late 19th and early 20th century special scrapbooks were made to hold collectible cigar bands. Many have survived and are reasonably priced at estate and garage sales.

CLUES: The use of children and angels on cigarette wrappers was acceptable in the 19th century. Because of current attitudes such subjects are highly collectible and rare. So are wrappers or cigar box labels that can now be identified by the artist.

One example would be the “old King Cole” label, a copy of the original illustration by Maxfield Parrish. With the advent of the photomechanical process in the 20th century, the era of richly colored, gilt embossed tobacco art came to a close. However, today’s collectors, both these and the earlier examples are collectible. Collections can included cigar and cigarette tins with interesting illustrations. Often overlooked are items in a form of decoupage such as cigar bands, mounted under glass as ashtrays, lamp bases, paperweights and men’s jewelry boxes.

Historically, Florida became the site for the tobacco industry in America, in 1869 when Vicente Martinez Ybor, a successful Cuban cigar manufacturer, moved his factory from Havanna to Key West. In 1896 Miami, along with Key West and Tampa began a tobacco industry.

If you have any questions, you can Email us at antshoppe@aol.com

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