Offset lithography was developed in the 1870s and patented in 1875 to create an efficient way to print on tin. Until then, transferring ink from hard stone to hard tin had been largely unsuccessful. This new technique allowed the ink on the litho stone to be passed to a cardboard cylinder (later, rubber would be used) and then offset onto the tin.

The ability to print on tin was particularly important to tobacco companies since tin containers allowed their products to be sealed from the air, which dried out tobacco, and protected from damage (a tin in the pocket was a smarter way to store rolled cigarettes than a soft paper wrapper or box).

Tobacco tins were manufactured in only a small number of shapes and styles. Cylinders and boxes were used for tobacco sold in bulk, while smaller flat or concave tins were designed to be carried in a pocket. A third form was the lunchbox tin, so named for its wire handle and frequent reuse by smokers and their children alike to carry their lunch to work or school.

Because the shapes of tobacco tins were relatively standard, the lithographed artwork on the outsides of the tins was just about the only way to differentiate products on a tobacconist’s shelves. Imagery ranged from birds to butterflies to flowers, with some brands targeted to wealthy men (the tips of some cigarettes produced for this upscale demographic were tipped in real gold) and others to women (Muratti’s was just one of many companies that packaged cigarettes for “Young Ladies”).

The most popular images, though, focused on sailors and the Navy. Probably the best known tobacco-tin brand was Player's, whose Navy Cut cigarettes featured a portrait of a sailor framed by a life preserver. Ogden's made Royal Navy Cigarettes, as did Gold Leaf, Crown, Harvey & Davy, and Hignett, whose Pilot Flake tins depicted a slickered sea captain gripping the wheel of a ship listing hard to starboard.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Match World

Match World

This ambitious site showcases the 20,000-item Rankei Library matchbook collection, owned by the Japan Match Manufac… [read review or visit site]

Advertising Antiques

Advertising Antiques

This classy looking British site features hundreds of high resolution photos of antique porcelain pre-war (enamel) … [read review or visit site]

Kensitas Silk Flowers

Kensitas Silk Flowers

Don Wearmouth and his wife showcase the 230 beautiful silk designs that were distributed free with Kensitas cigaret… [read review or visit site]

Ad Access

Ad Access

Duke University's library has pulled together an impressive collection of over 7,000 ads printed in U.S. and Canadi… [read review or visit site]

Plan 59

Plan 59

From the Nostlagia Factory in Virginia comes this celebration of 'mid-century automotive advertising illustrations'… [read review or visit site]

Matchbox Labels

Matchbox Labels

Jane McDevitt's huge Flickr photoset of matchbox labels, primarily Eastern European, from the 1950s and 60s. These … [read review or visit site]

American Package Museum

American Package Museum

Ian House's gallery of early 20th Century American package designs. Browse the exhibits in slide show mode or view … [read review or visit site]

Truth in Advertising

Truth in Advertising

This gallery of cigarette magazine advertising from the 1940s and 50s contains no surgeon general's warning, just p… [read review or visit site]

Found in Moms Basement

Found in Moms Basement

Paula Zargaj-Reynolds’ blog, an extensive collection of 20th century vintage advertising, is a visual feast. Scro… [read review or visit site]

Matchbook Museum

Matchbook Museum

James Lileks' gallery of 400 matchbooks from coffee shops, hotels, motels, bars, banks, restaurants and more. Lilek… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Honey Moon Pocket Tobacco TinBlack Americana Tobacco TinUs Marine Flake Cut Pocket Tobacco TinForest And Stream Pocket Tobacco TinAntique 19thc Western Tin Tole Tobacco Humidor & America Bison Buffalo Box, NrWhip Ready Rolled Pocket Tobacco TinMint Very Rare Von Eicken's Alright Pocket Tobacco Tin- American VersionPeachey Double Cut Pocket Tobacco Tin- Excellent ConditionVintage Forest And Stream Pocket Tobacco TinBuckingham Bright Cut Sample Tobacco TinUnion Leader Redi Cut Pocket Tobacco TinJ. J. Bagley Fast Mail Pocket Tobacco Tin- Excellent ConditionTurn Of The Century Super Rare James River Fine Cut Tobacco TinCity Club Pocket Tobacco TinAntique Nig*erhair Smoking Tobacco Advertising Tin Black Americana TobaccianaAntique Sweet Cuba Fine Tobacco Advertising Tin Cigar Smoking Plug General StoreRare Shaped Three Feathers Cut Plug Pocket Tobacco Tin- Excellent ConditionUltra Rare Wheel Of Fortune Tobacco TinTimes Square Pocket Tobacco Tin - Excellent Condition!!! Rex Pocket Tobacco TinRed Deer Version! Stag Pocket Tobacco TinLucky Strike Vertical Pocket Roll Cut Tobacco Tin Old Vtg Antique Original RareUltra Rare Tuxedo Complimentary Package Pocket Tobacco TinRare Fruits And Flowers Tobacco TinEpicure Shredded Plug Pocket Tobacco TinVintage Estate Find Union Leader Redi Cut Tobacco TinVintage Bagley's Old Colony Tobacco TinBagdad Pocket Tobacco TinTobacco Tin Rod And GunHi-plane Pocket Tobacco TinRare Bull Dog Cut Plug Tobacco TinVintage Edgeworth Extra High Grade Ready-rubbed Smoking Tobacco Tin W/tax SealOld Large Sure Shot Chewing Tobacco Advertising Store Tin Native American ArcherPuritan Mixture Crushed Plug Pocket Tobacco TinRarest- Curved Version Dill's Best Pocket Tobacco Tin- Excellent Condition!!!~toystamp & 1920's Pedro Cut Plugs Smoking Tobacco Tin CanisterVery Rare Old Seneca Stogies Cigar TinVintage Twin Oaks Tobacco Mixture Cigarette Tin Circa 1920'sPair Old! Tin Litho Helme Tobacco Wintergreen Viking Snuff Store Wall DispensersBuckingham Bright Cut Tobacco TinQ Boid Granulated Plug Oval Version Pocket Tobacco TinWw1 Brass Keep Sake- Tobacco Tin Somme Vintage Old Treen Pill Pot Snuff BadgeTobacco Tin MohawkBig Ben Pocket Tobacco TinUltra Rare American Blend Pocket Tobacco TinDill's Best Tobacco Pocket Tin, In Nice Condition.Tobacco Tin Bin 38Tobacco Tin Dublin BayVintage Edgeworth Extra High Grade Ready-rubbed Smoking Tobacco Sample TinAntique Qboid Tobacco Tin With Partial Stamp (john Q. Adams Pictured) Richmond21 Tobacco Tins Union Leader Prince Albert Sir Walter Plug Edgeworth No ReserveVintage Lucky Strike Cut Plug Tobacco TinHair Tobacco Tin Rare Original Vintage TinCrown Beauty Cigar Tin- Highly CollectibleCheckers Pipe Tobacco Screw Top Cannister Montreal Tobacco Tin, No Price VersionVintage Stag Brand Tobacco Tin 3 1/2 Inches Tall Blue Rock ~ Detroit Michigan ~ Bird Vintage Diecut Tin Lithographed Tobacco TagVintage Tobacco TinsAntique Dark Sweet Cuba Tobacco Tin 1 Lb. Can Daniel Scotten Continental DetroitVintage Crown(cut Plug)tobacco Tin J.m. Fortier Montreal,p.q.