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Pavement artists have been featured on everything from postcards, posters, records, films and travel magazines, so it comes as no surprise to see tobacco companies getting in on the act.
The hobby of collecting cigarette cards goes back to the 1890s, to a time when cigarettes were wrapped in paper packets. Manufacturers began inserting pieces of card to protect the contents, quickly realising that these would be useful for advertising their products. Soon these were followed by pictorial sequences which would build up in to sets. The object was to encourage repeat purchases and establish brand loyalty, and the subjects chosen were those most likely to appeal to the predominantly male customer base.
Remember this was before the days of cinema, radio or TV let alone the modern technological wonders we now take for granted. Newspapers carried few illustrations, and living standards were much lower. For most smokers, therefore, the cards they collected from their packets were their window on the world, serving to educate, excite or amuse – they were colourful, informative and free!
The 1920s and 1930s are generally regarded as the golden age of cards. Competition was fierce and rival firms were constantly looking for something different to stand out from the crowd. I’ve managed to track down at least three sets of cards from this period that included the pavement artist as part of the collectable sets.
“Types of London” published by Carreras Limited 1919. The pavement artist appeared as card number 27 in a complete set of 80 cards, other characters included; Muffin Man, Sweep, Rat Catcher, Lamp Lighter, Sewer Man & Flower Girl to name but a few. Each card was illustrated by renowned First World War artist, Julius M. Price.
Cards were included in packs of Black Cat Cigarettes, which was introduced in 1904 as one of the first machine-made cigarettes manufactured in Britain.
“London Characters” published by Lambert & Butler, and issued by The Imperial Tobacco Company of Great Britain 1934. The pavement artist appeared as card number 20 in a collection of 25. Other characters included; The Rag & Bone man, Organ Grinder, Kerbstone Trader, The Street Entertainer and the Quack Medicine Man.
The illustrator is unknown, but all the cards in the set where produced in this distinctive sepia tone, and included in packs of 10 Lambert & Butler Cigarettes.
“In Town Tonight” issued by The Imperial Tobacco Company of Great Britain 1938. The Saturday evening radio show ‘In Town Tonight’ which began with the cry of a Piccadilly flower seller in the background as “we stop the roar of London’s traffic.” The recording was the voice of Mrs Emma Baker whose picture appears on card no. 2 in Churchman’s 1938 series of fifty, which takes its title from the programme.
The basis of the show, and the cards, was to meet people from all walks of life who happened to be in London that night. So on these cards we meet the likes of Cyclone Danny Carter, the international stunt rider; John Tussaud, Madame Tussaud’s great grandson; Christina Foyle of booksellers fame; Dante, the master magician; Prince Monolulu, the racing tipster; Captain Slocum, British Airways pilot; and engine-driver William Hagland who apparently used the cigarette card of himself to prove his identity when appearing as a witness in court.
The London pavement artist “REM” appears as card number 35 in a set of 50. Cards where included in packs of 10 Churchman’s Cigarettes
You can read more about REM in my previous blog: Ruined by War (1935)
Written & Researched by Philip Battle
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