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Berry Picking #1: Cigarette Cards
Sarony & Co's "Around the Mediterranean"
Cigarette cards were like baseball cards that were stuffed into cigarette boxes from the late 1870s until the 1940s. These collectibles stiffened the box and like cereal box toys or temporary tattoos in gum sticks, the cards added a surprise so you’d buy more to collect the whole set. Based on an article about the stereotype-riddled National Types of Beauty set that you should definitely take a look at, cigarette cards stopped being printed in 1940 because of paper shortages during WWII.
In the George Arents Collection alone, accessible through the New York Public Library, there are +49,700 cigarette cards.
“The first portion of the collection, the Arents Tobacco Collection, constitutes the largest and most comprehensive library in the world devoted to the history, literature, and lore of tobacco.” - NYPL
One subset of this collection was 50 cigarette cards of destinations around the Mediterranean. Produced for the British Nicolas Sarony & Co and digitized in 2016, they feature beautiful cities from Gibraltar to Iraq. Card 23 and 24 are of modern-day Lebanon’s Beirut (above) and Baalbeck (below). The NYPL doesn’t have the collection dated but listings of used books of this set date them somewhere between 1926 and 1928 and they indicate that the cards were commissioned for Sarony Silk Cut Virginia Cigarettes.
According to this Italian site and Google Translate, “Nicolas Sarony Ltd. was one of the first and most important cigarette companies in the United Kingdom, founded in 1863 in London by the English photographer and lithographer Nicolas Sarony. The company was famous for its trading cards, inserted into cigarette packs, which depicted celebrities, historical figures, landscapes and other themes. Trading cards were highly sought after by collectors and some are held in museums and libraries. The firm had its factory in Piccadilly, where it employed about 300 workers, and its headquarters in New Bond Street, where it changed its name from Nicolas Sarony & Co. to Nicolas Sarony Ltd. in 1925. The firm ceased production in 1959.”
About the Berry Picking Series
Once a month, I share a nugget (very or loosely) related to wine from my random online deep dives or in-person encounters.
This series was formerly known as “Brainfood” but was renamed in Sept 2023.
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