Posted 12 months ago
Another little item on my current advertising theme is this 'twin set'. I think that is the term for them: a set of half size playing cards produced by the tobacco company WD & HO Wills in their original box with Games booklet, dated 1933. The booklet itself was written by Lawrence Hawkins Dawson. It's a sixty three page miniature book containing 26 versions of patience. I just adore the illustrations and the coloured diagrams!
I really like the illustrations on this set entitled "Old Japan" on each card. I've seen a great variety of designs for them on the net. They have a great contemporary Deco look and are examples of the design and printing techniques used to sell tobacco products. I suppose this was an extension of the 'cigarette card' advertising concept that had worked so well for the tobacco companies in the nineteenth century and well into the early twentieth......
...... and then came the Depression!
But people can normally find enough for their dependent habits; I certainly could and did for years until I finally gave up. In the case of the tobacco companies they began another huge campaign to promote their products during the economic down-turn of the Thirties. Wills came up with a marketing ploy called "The Wills Gift Scheme".
"At the same time the General Strike and the depression exacerbated the Company's condition. During the early 1930s De la Rue helped out by making cards for Waddingtons during the Wills gift scheme, where miniature cards were tucked into every packet of ten Goldflake or Capstan cigarettes which could be exchanged for full-sized packs, and the firm's playing card profits began to pick up."
Wills owned not only factories to produce the cigarettes but also packaging plants and printing companies as well. In England the city of Bristol The Imperial Tobacco Company owned Mardon Son & Hall (1823-1987). They had huge premises at a variety of locations in Bristol. But not only this printing firm, they used another called Waddingtons : "A division of Imperial Tobacco, they appear to have made cards almost exclusively for the cigarette token market, which flourished during the 1930s."
Check out these photos on Flickr:
From what I can make out, however, this promotional set was created by yet another firm called "De la Rue & Co". They had taken over another company in the twenties with a long history called "Chas Goodall & Son". This latter company had produced a series of "Boudoir" playing cards and sets of Patience cards. They were luxury items in 1906. But by the 1930's they were pared down into this form for the general market and now produced by De la Rue.
But little 'luxury' touches remain: the gilt edging of the cards, the interior of the box is gilded too! This gilding is reminiscent of the interiors of silver cigarette cases of the Edwardian period. It was later used within cigarette boxes in Wills packaging, the gold foil that surrounded the cigarettes and the pull away part when you opened the "flip top box".
Memories of nicotine!
The gestures of nicotine!
The gold you threw away!
And then there is the luxury of the "feel" of the cards themselves. They feel different because of a paper embossing technique called "Linette":
"In 1906 linen grained cards were introduced under the trade name “Linette”. They soon became popular for their good shuffling and dealing qualities." www.wopc.co.uk/goodall/
I really like the illustrations on this set with the Oriental theme. They have a great Deco look and are great examples of the design and printing technique used to sell tobacco products. They are an exercise in how to link entertainment, leisure, spare-time and depression too (in its various forms) to tobacco.
Small half sized cards measuring approx. 7cm x 4.2cm.