J.K. Föhl painting from The Encyclopedia of Ephemera
With the (soon-to-be-signed into law) “Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act” here in the US, and cigarette packaging poised for some changes, I thought it might be a good time to take a look back at the origins of tobacco packaging.
The earliest tobacco pack? Pretty much just a square of folded paper as in the painting above.
Early shopkeepers, if they wrapped their wares at all, did so only nominally. One 17th-century London tea-man’s advertisement suggests that the customer should come provided with ‘a convenient box’. Squares of paper, normally reserved for the most unmanageable of commodities, were the universal standby. In this way, for those who shopped without convenient boxes, the problem of wrapping such products as pins, needles, snuff, tobacco, ink powder, sago, and the like was solved.
With the rise of shopkeeping and the growth of competition, it was only a matter of time before the square of wrapping paper carried a distinguishing mark.
The Encyclopedia of Ephemera
By Maurice Rickards, Michael Twyman, Sally De Beaumont, Amoret Tanner
As explained to me by Virginia Bartow, curator of the Arents Tobacco collection, tobacco “trade cards” (not to be confused with tobacco trading cards) served a multitude of purposes. An advertising flyer, a shipping label—(so that non-literate delivery men could match the graphics on the label to the sign hanging outside the tobacconist’s shop)—and an ad hoc package.
(More tobacco trade card packaging, after the fold…)
Tobacco trade cards (I probably got these images from the Arents collection online, but I got them a while ago and now I can’t remember for sure…)
Another still life with a tobacco packet (this one unfolded) below…
Beach Packaging Design