Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tobacco Ephemera 5

While silks are not technically ephemera, they were among the many premiums distributed by early 20th century tobacco companies. I don't actively collect tobacco silks, but they occasionally show up in trade card collections. This silk and the two that follow were distributed by Nebo and Zira cigarettes, early brands of the American Tobacco Company. They date to circa 1910. King Ferdinand was one of a set of 10 called Rulers of the Balkans and Italy.

Queen Ester and Queen Louisa were part of a set of 15 call Famous Queens.

click to enlarge

Tobacco silks came in a variety of sizes and were popular with collectors, who often sewed them into quilts. This quilt is from, and similar tobacco quilts can be seen at that site, here. Also at are smaller quilts, perhaps table covers or wall decorations, that were made from the colorful yellow ribbons that were used to tie up bundles of cigars.

My thanks to


  1. Mark, do you have Prince Albert in a can? You utterly amaze me with all of your fabulous finds and interests. The quilt is to die for and I wonder if it still retains a faint scent of tobacco.

  2. Hi, Buoni - The quilt is from, so I don't know if it retains a trace of tobacco aroma. I used to own a collection of the yellow cloth cigar bands that are featured at, but they didn't smell of tobacco. I gave them away as a gift, and I wish I still had them to show you. Each cloth band had a cigar maker's name, in very distinctive Victorian type.

  3. Hi Mark,
    Very sophisticated, I can see why they would be kept and made into quilts.
    I think they would make for lovely framed miniatures as well. I saw once, on Antiques Roadshow, a jacket made of the cigar ribbons. I was astounded, it looked very 'couture' in a way.

  4. Hi Anyes - Yes, I can picture a jacket made from those ribbons would have a very contemporary feel.

  5. Wow - never heard of these. The quilt is amazing!! I like The Dusty Victorian's ideas as well!!

  6. Hi Stacey - I think we're all missing a bet here. I see a collection of these silks (perhaps 1910 movie stars) being made into a new fabric.

  7. Whatever happened to items like these silks and the idea of premiums, bonuses or gifts with purchase? I like the jam and peanut butter containers that became drinking glasses, or the wonderful cards with birds that once came in boxes of tea. Really, isn't it just a form of recycling or making packaging that can be reused? Same for cigar boxes or old tin tea canisters. Funny that we're so environmentally conscious but in generations past they were more frugal with resources than we are.

  8. "Going green" is nothing new! Recycling is a part of our heritage! I love the silks.

  9. Hi, Terry - And of course, as a collector of old tins, I'm very conscious of the old tobacco tins that became 19th century lunch pails!

    Hi, Theresa - I think so many printed items were saved and recycled in the late 19th and early 20th century because good color printing was still relatively new and a novelty.