More Reasons to Love Tobacco*

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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*I’m being ironic, sardonic and acerbic. There are no reasons to love tobacco, but there are reasons to study the ephemera of tobacco marketing. Understanding how an industry that caters to and perpetuates ill health on so many levels can be so successful for so many years demands attention.

Before the cigarette package and the give-a-ways (i.e. cigarette cards) that came as premiums, tobacco was packaged in bags – large and small. Tobacco also was wrapped in paper and the paper needed closures. The paper and bags were often “tagged” (indeed branded) with a metallic fastener called a tobacco tag or cut plug markers, which either showed the brand name and image or some other identifying mark – logos by any other name. These were collectibles back in the day and also today. You can learn more here from the National Cigar History Museum Exhibit by Tony Hyman (or an excerpt below).

P. Lorillard was the first company to use tags made of tin to identify their products, but in one of those historic bad ideas, decided to put their tags under the outside leaf which wrapped the brick, thus rendering it invisible until cut or bitten. This bad marketing idea led to chipped teeth and unhappy customers. Ben Finzer, owner of the Ben Finzer Tobacco Company in Louisville, liked the idea of tin tags, and became the first to put them on the outside of the slab or twist. Finzer tried unsuccessfully to patent the idea and placement. After the courts turned him down, tobacco manufacturers everywhere adopted the use of colorful tin tags. Because the tags were so inexpensive to make, custom brands and corresponding tags were easily created for retailers and wholesalers. Collectors have catalogued more than 12,000 different tags.

A more scholarly overview can be found here. And a collector’s view can be seen here and here.

American Navy Tobacco Tag
Tobacco Tag
Battle Ax Tobacco Tag
Kingbult Tobacco Tag
Town Talk
Battle Ax Tobacco Tag