Warwickshire's cigarette cards
PUBLISHED: 16:30 24 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:15 20 February 2013
Millions of smokers once bought certain brands of cigarette for the small cards that came with the pack. These cards are now an interesting part of our social history says card collector Neville Denson.
In these days of open and almost constant hostility towards smokers and the tobacco companies its pleasing to be able to reflect on cigarette cards as one good thing tobacco brought. They were issued in cigarette packets from the 1880s until the outbreak of the Second World War.
Warwickshire wasnt ignored by the tobacco companies. As thousands of smokers across the nation opened their packets, up would pop a picture having some connection with the county.
Coventry-born actress Ellen Terry appeared in a series from 1916, called Players Past & Present. She was described as a consummately talented actress, whose gracious presence and charming talent are well known to lovers of the drama. We can smile at the flowery language of that time but she became the leading Shakespearian actress of the day, dominating the English and US theatre between 1878 and 1902, in partnership with Henry Irving; and she was made a Dame.
The Coventry Victor Super-Six motor cycle featured, too. Car and motor cycle manufacturer Morton & Weaver, founded in 1904 in the city, became Coventry Victor in 1911. The Super-Six had a vibrationless flat twin engine, rated at 6-8hp. The companys 1927 Silent Six has become a sought after classic bike.
Motor Index Marks, from 1926, show the marks for Coventry. The card details many industries and interesting features of the city which then had a population of 128,205 and refers to the old cathedral as one of the finest specimens of Perpendicular architecture in England. It also tells of Cheylesmore Park as once an open space where martyrs were put to death.
A 1909 set, Celebrated Gateways, includes West Gate, Warwick. We are told that the ancient walls date from 1070 and that adjoining the Gate is Leicester Hospital a fine specimen of half-timbered construction, erected in the reign of Henry VI.
Heraldry was a popular subject in the early days of cards and Warwicks borough arms are in a set from way back in 1904. The card acknowledges that a visitor may have difficulty in recognizing the famous castle by its representation, with the warders or huntsmen blowing horns. The moon and stars, it says, are possibly an allusion to that doughty Crusader, Guy of Warwick.
The badge of the torpedo boat destroyer WARWICK is in a 1926 set of Ships Badges. The first ship of this name was in the Battle of Beachy Head in 1690. The present ship was launched in March, 1918, taking part in the raid on Zeebrugge, two months later.
The arms of Leamington are said to be entirely made-up of the arms of former lords of the manor and the crest shows the ragged staff of the Warwicks, crossed with the staff of the God of Health and a serpent. The motto means Honest wealth alone is wealth.
There is a card with the regimental colours of the 5th Battalion
Royal Warwickshire Regiment, along with the cap badge, but the back of the card doesnt enlighten us as to what the colourful flag is all about.
The White Swan, Stratford-on-Avon, is in a set called Old Inns. Probably known as the Kings Head in Shakespeares day, the card says that it is quite conceivable that the great poet himself drank his ale or sack here and gazed on the fine mural paintings, that were later hidden by oak panelling until they were discovered by accident in 1927.
One of the most popular subjects covered by cigarette cards was sport and Coventry Citys Welsh international from the mid-1930s, L. J. Jones, described as one of the best scoring inside forwards appeared in a set of Association Footballers.
In cricket, a card on Warwickshires R. E. S. Wyatt, an England captain, and later selector, said fate had been unkind in the matter of injuries but he didnt let bad luck dampen his enthusiasm. His career spanned 35 seasons, playing in 40 Tests, and he had an enviable batting record.
In one of the very few sets issued after the Second World War, H. E. (Tom) Dollery appeared. An excellent middle-order batsman, fine slip fielder and occasional wicket-keeper, he played for Warwickshire between 1934 and 1955, and for England four times. Tom Dollery also played soccer player for Reading.
Lots of cards were designed to have a general appeal and carried pictures of the countryside and exotic faraway places. Theres a strange irony in that indirectly cigarettes must have brought a breath of fresh air to many a working man and woman, living in squalid industrial areas with little leisure time.
Cigarette card facts
"¬Originally, blank cards were put in packets to protect the cigarettes. Soon these were to contain pictures quite something in an age when there was no radio, TV, cinema or colourful magazines. Nor were there photographs in newspapers in the very early days of cigarette cards.
Apart from their pictorial attraction, cards contained useful, reliable information at a time when most knowledge had to be sought from huge, scholarly books a daunting prospect to most people.
A set of 50 can still be bought for well under 10 but rarer cards fetch much more.
"¬In September 2007 in the USA a single card of one Honus Wagner, a baseball player, issued in the late 1800s, was sold for $2.8 million. Mind you, it was in pretty good condition.