Roly Poly Tindeco Tobacco Tins

StoreKeeperPhotos via: Dan Morphy Auctions

In last month’s post about roly poly Santa and clown containers, there was one photo of a Santa-shaped tobacco tin. “Tindeco” was the company that originally came out with this type of anthropomorphic package design:

Around 1912 the Tin Decorating Company, aka Tindeco, produced round colorful tins to hold tobacco for the American Tobacco Company. American Tobacco controlled Tindeco, as well as the four brands of tobacco sold in these tins. Each container held about 1 lb of tobacco with the brand names Dixie Queen, Mayo, Red Indian and U.S. Marine. Apparently the company suggested that the tins be used as brownie containers after the tobacco was used and designed them accordingly.

The six original tins were Satisfied Customer (reproduction called Businessman), Storekeeper, Singing Waiter (reproduction called Singer), Mammy, Dutchman (reproduction called Cowboy), and Scotland Yard. According to “The Tin Can Book”, the Satisfied Customer, Dutchman and Scotland Yard are the hardest to find. But for those collectors that want complete sets, six tins would not do it! A complete set would be eighteen tins. Mayo and Dixie Queen tobacco was packaged in all six designs and while Red Indian and U.S. Marine were only packaged in three different tins. One way these tins were identified was by little packages of tobacco shown on some of the packages. E.g., Mammy had a tiny tin in her front pocket.

Barbara Crews, Roly Poly Tobacco Tins, 2002

Not exactly the Droste-effect, but when anthropomorphic packages are shown handling packages that contain the same product that they, themselves, contain, the effect is similar. Even when these characters are not shown with packaging in their pockets, they all have tobacco packages behind their backs. (back packs)

DrosteMayoTobaccoOn left: a close up of cross-promotional behind-the-back package illustration; on left a vintage Mayo’s Tobacco pack of the type depicted

Below the “Scotland Yard” character with “Dixie Queen” tobacco behind his back. (Lower right corner shows the vintage tobacco pack depicted.)


The “Singing Waiter” character also promoted “Dixie Queen” in an alternate package.


On left: drawing from Washington I. Tuttle’s package design patent; on right: Charles Weise’s patented “shopkeeper” design (both patents assigned to American Tobacco Company)

(The “Mammy” character and the roly poly tobacco tin design patents after the fold…)



Above is Washington I. Tuttle’s package design patent. There were a number of additional patents covering the artwork, mostly by Mortimer V. Tessier…






And just to show how the tops of these containers work, here is a reproduction of the “Dutchman” character (aka: “Cowboy”)  for sale on Etsy ($15). Made by Bristol Ware, a division of Chein Industries.


Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

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