Sunday, May 27, 2007

Little Chief - tobacco ad

Why this example of cigar box art is entitled "Little Chief" is unusual inasmuch as it juxtaposes the exotic Nile with a Native American canoe and a voluptuous, yet white, Egyptian princess. Her skirt is in a Native American motif, as is the decorative "saw blade" design on the edges of the canoe - the canoe is in the iconographic image but the canoe itself is not constructed of Indian materials or in an Indian fashion. The vessel is not birch bark, but made of wooden slats. She, likewise, is smoking a cigar. The little girl's role on the right hand side is hard to decipher. In any event, there seems to be no political symbolism in this picture, but perhaps only 19th-century eroticism or male sexual fantasy. Certainly the woman is not "Little Chief" although she is paddling an "Indian" canoe while allowing her breasts to be exposed. Still, the name "Little Chief" is curious - maybe the title of a play or some 'legitimate" painting of the 19th century.

Comments are welcome.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Columbia brand chewing tobacco

No, not Columbia, South America, but the feminine symbol for America, Columbia. Here she dominates the world and offers chewing tobacco. The symbolism should be obvious, and although it wasn't thought of that way at the time, America, that is, Columbia, is offering mouth cancer or at least horridly bad breath and stained teeth to the world. Sort of like in the Garden of Eden, when the beautiful Eve offered the apple of knowledge which would so impact the world resulting in paradise lost. Show them a pretty woman in a provocative pose and they'll buy anything.

King Cetewayo of the Zulus - tobacco ad

In these two illustrations we see the convergence of two actual events and personalities in 19th century history. But, before proceeding, it is best to explain that to boost the sale of their products, cigarette companies placed cards in cigarette packs that had pictures of athletes, flags of nations, ships at sea, and famous people - children would pester their parents for the cards and so sales would increase.

In this case we see the Zulu King Cetewayo pictured on one such cigarette premium card. Cetewayo's army fought the imperialist British army at the battle of Insandlwana in May, 1879. The other image, entitled "courage" shows two British lieutenants, Melville and Coghill, bravely fighting to the Zulus to the end, defending the Queen's colors. At Insandlwana the British were all killed. Such is the price for imperial glory. The Zulus fought the British again at a small outpost, but were repulsed. That is the plot of the movie "Zulu" starring Michael Caine.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Crusader tobacco

One might imagine this as the way in which George W. Bush thinks of himself in Iraq, with sword and flag, leading the holy Christian knights to battle the heathen Muslim infidels. The motif also fits well its own time and place, that of the European, American, and to a lesser extent, the Japanese cultures of imperialism. This iconic figure then would symbolize the racist compunction to demean all that is different, therefore inferior, to their empire building. Perhaps the cigar smoking man buying this stogie believed down deep that it was a holy war, not god cursed imperialism.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Welcome Nugget Tobacco

The advertising message, found in the lower right hand corner reads:

"As the welcome nugget weighing 2217 ounces exceeds in purity and value any lump of gold ever found, so this brand surpasses in quality any tobacco made."

The prospector, harkening back to the days of the California gold rush, holds the huge nugget and says, almost nonchalantly: "Jack, look at this." The cigars, no doubt, were really golden deals.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Old Honesty Tobacco

"Old Honesty" is a piece of cigar box art dating from the late 1870s to the early 1880s. It glorifies the "village smithy" of days of yore, from whose honest work all kinds of good things have been produced, from locomotives, pottery, factories, artistic statues, giant cog wheels and even factories. Notice his beard, his manly chest, strong forearms, and the square in his belt and of course the anvil. It was, even for its time, a fond look to a past when a man's labor stood for his honesty and integrity. It was a fond look back because the times were changing so that workers were made to be less important in society, only worker-bees in the factories one can see in the back ground. If you smoked this brand of cigar you were most likely a working man or were delighted with the image the art portrayed and felt a kinship with the icon "Old Honesty" represented.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fine Tips

Tobacco has always been sold by leveraging the beauty of young women. Here is a "Virginia Slims"-esque ad from the 1880s. A young woman showing off her Fine Tips cigarette.

Monday, May 21, 2007

La Cultura tobacco

In the late 19th century, the period of imperialism and exploitation, etc., etc., European, or at least Caucasian nations were represented in classical feminine form, as were the benighted peoples they
ostensibly were out to Christianize. This is a very good example of that idea. The white woman in this picture represents America, while the brown woman represents a backward even savage civilization kowtowing to America and offering up her bounty, in this case, tobacco and other exotic fruits. The ox cart to the left is emblematic of the backwardness of the native country, while the the factories in the background indicate the promise of what will come under American rule. The country is most likely Cuba, or some other Caribbean island nation. It was the beginning of the "American Century." Imperialism - it's a good thing to spread "the Culture" (La Cultura).