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Group DescriptionThis group is about the lost and forgotten art of the cigar box label.
Since the mid 19th century, in the United States, over 250,000 different cigar manufacturing facilities marketed over 2 million different brands of cigar; each with their own distinctive labelling.
Cigars were sold in singles from boxes with their lids open which were displayed in glass cases - the label on the inside of the lid became instrumental in brand name recognition and catchy names with distinctive lettering and intricate graphic images became the industry standard so cigar box labels are some of the earliest examples of commercial art and as such they have become highly collectable
The competition for customers was fierce and when it came to using the package to attract the customer's eye, the cigar industry did it earlier and more adventurously than anyone.
The people that made and sold cigars tried every image, gimmick and theme used today. There were no precedents and very little legislation and they utilised a huge range of graphic styles and themes to promote their products including pretty women, animals, children, the Old West, sports personalities, celebrities and politicians.
Unlike today when a few large companies decide on brand names and images, cigar makers, box manufacturers, salesman, wholesalers, retailers and even customers got into the act. Everyone created brand names - advertising anarchy - but the labels involved some of the most imaginative commercial artwork ever produced and it can be safely said that cigars had more influence on the development of modern advertising and packaging than any other industry.
Collecting cigar labels was a popular hobby in the early 20th century but as smoking and production declined after the Great Depression of the 1930's then so did label collecting. For many years un-used labels languished in warehouses and storerooms, printers archives and collector's attics, largely forgotten by the general public but fortunately many have now been rediscovered by discerning people who recognise the value of this unique art form.
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