Pictures of Matchbook Men

My family recently inherited a collection of old matchbooks. There are probably about 200 or so matchbooks in the box they came in, all of them from the US, and most of them from California, specifically San Francisco.

MatchbooksBeing a resident of San Francisco I’d  heard about the famous “The Old Poodle Dog” (second row from bottom, far left). This restaurant was one of the first French restaurants in San Francisco. It opened in 1849 and was actually named “Le Poulet D’or” but commonly called “The Poodle Dog” (probably because of the poodle logo?).  This matchbook is from a later incarnation of the restaurant (the original failed to survive prohibition) which opened in 1933 at 65 Post Street.

The location of the Fickle Fox now houses one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco, Range. I wonder what the cocktails were like at The Fickle Fox?  And the decor.

These little bits of graphic history got me wondering about the places they once belonged to–some of them still with us, some of them long gone.  And matchbooks as souvenirs. We don’t see many matchbooks these days, and the ones I do see aren’t as graphically interesting as some of the ones from way back when.

I’m curious if anyone has frequented any of the locations above. Or has their own matchbook collection.

9 thoughts on “Pictures of Matchbook Men

  1. Heidi Meredith Post author

    Thanks everyone for the comments! I love hearing about all these collections. I wish there was a way to share photos so we could all share these collections. It’s inspiring!
    @david bellona– Thanks for the link! I enjoyed perusing your collection. I really do love these small little pieces of history that were so graphically interesting, but also meant to be used and discarded.
    @connie And those missile matches? That sounds pretty cool. I’d love to see a picture.
    @michelle — I’ll definitely be at the Vintage Paper Fair.

  2. Michelle Lutsky

    Thanks for sharing these. If you’re interested, there are lots of old matchbooks at our antiique paper show in San Francisco next month.
    Vintage Paper Fair Aug 6 & 7 at the County Fair Bldg in Golden Gate Park.
    Michelle Lutsky

  3. Connie Wilson

    I have a collection of about 200 that I bought at a garage sale. Many from the 30s and 40s restaurants in Chicago. One of the more interesting ones has an illustration of Hitler pushing the globe around on the front and on the back it says “Strike at the seat of trouble…Buy War Bonds”. The matches are actually shaped like missles. The type on so many of them is gorgeous. I am in the process of photographing and will share when I get that done.

  4. Eric

    I collected them for years and have quite a few in my closet. Haven’t thout about it for a while, but you’re right – you don’t see them much anymore so they’re getting harder to add to your collection. My favorites are travel related ones from Germany collected in the 70s.

  5. David Whitbread

    My Mum and Dad collected them as well and I have a few (mostly Australian) and I agree they are amazing relics of old corporate identities. (I’m now wondering what happened to Mum and Dad’s collection – maybe they are up in the cupboard at the coast…) I remember being most impressed with the photographic ones when I was a kid – and I got a matchbox which had a picture of the old Parliament House of Australia that had accidentally been applied in multiples – about ten copies, all perfect. This was a great discovery cos Mum had decided that we should laminate them into patterns onto a serving tray (which she had seen at a friend’s dinner party) (this was the 1970s…! LOL… fortunately, I don’t think it ever got that far…)

  6. Anna

    My aunt had a gigantic matchbook collection when I was a kid back in the 70’s.  I was always fascinated with it.  When I got old enough to start my own collection, I collected business cards from around the world. Many were cookie-cutters but when someone stepped out of the box…they stepped out.  Those were the most interesting ones.  Every type of medium was used, every type of font, every color and many included images.  The most memorable ones from my collection; one embossed/imprinted on soft red leather, another printed on clear plastic and another printed in all Japanese from top to bottom (an unusual layout at the time).   
    I now attend college working toward a degree in graphic design and am discovering some of my abnormal habits, such as collecting business cards, make total sense.
    Thanks for your post.

  7. Preston

    I am also a designer with a matchbook collection. I inherited mine from my dad who I believe had collected them over the years of traveling the country. I got them when I was about 12 and just remember being fascinated with the graphics and type. I added a few myself over the years but it was already a substantial collection that I just kept stored. I recently added about 90 more matchbooks so I’m probably at about 200. They are from all over the country, range in condition and most are from probably the 40’s to the 70’s. I absolutely love the advertising, typography and illustrations. A little piece of americana that I will always hold onto. I feel no need to add new matchbooks because there aren’t many businesses putting them out and they just really aren’t graphically interesting anymore. Cheers!