Cigarette cards (100), 'Famous Film Stars' series, card, made by WD & HO Wills, England, 1934
These cigarette cards document the retail activities of a suburban confectionary shop located in Mosman from 1929 to 1938. Their significance comes from their production as a tobacco marketing tool, and their provenance to Turner's Confectionary Shop. The cards reveal the level of competition among tobacco manufacturers and the sophistication of marketing techniques used to secure new customers and maintain continued sales. This complete series of cards illustrates the level of success of tobacco marketing strategies.
Confectionary and soda shops were a feature of many Australian towns and suburbs by the 1920s. Since the 1800s, coffee palaces, oyster saloons, tea rooms, restaurants and cafes had provided food and drink (often alcoholic) for all, from the wealthy to the working person, in search of a sixpenny cooked lunch. In the 1910s and 1920s, with temperance campaigns gathering momentum, the confectionary and soda shop represented an affordable, fashionable, refreshing and alcohol-free alternative for women, couples and families. As the precursor to the ubiquitous milk bar, they appeared in the city centres and flourished in the many suburban shopping precincts erected in the building boom of the 1920s. These shops were important points through which British and the more recent American popular culture were introduced to Australia through the medium of cuisine. While morning and afternoon tea and cake was always popular; increasingly American inspired leisure foods, such as ice-creams, sodas and sundaes were consumed. Cigarettes were also sold in large quantities.
This series of cigarette cards was made by the English cigarette manufacturer WD & HO Wills. The set was issued in 1934 in packets of WD & HO Wills cigarettes such as 'Capstan', 'Havelock', 'Three Castles' and 'Vice Regal'.
From the 1880s tobacco companies put pieces of card in soft cigarette packets to protect the contents. These protective stiffening cards developed into picture cards. In the first half of the twentieth century, ready-rolled cigarettes gained in popularity at the expense of ready-rub tobacco and pipe tobacco. The publication of multiple series of cigarette cards became a major part of the culture of tobacco retailing and consumption.
Companies such as the American Tobacco Company and W.D. and H.O. Wills printed dozens of series. Wills was the most prolific producer of cards with issues of popular actresses and cricketers appearing as early as 1903. This 1934 series on movie stars is also evidence of the popularity of British and American film culture in Australia in the 1930s. British and American companies competed with each other to produce the most interesting series in order to encourage continued sales and new customers. There were numerous series with direct Australian content printed for the local market, some with as many as 100 cards.
Despite some concerns over the health effects of smoking in the late 1800s and early 1900s, smoking among men was generally accepted. Selling tobacco to children under 16 was outlawed in New South Wales in 1903 but children were still allowed to buy the product as the 'agent' of an adult. Several of the cigarette card series seem to have been targeted at children. Variations on the simple collectible series were produced including jigsaw cards, pop-up cards and silk cards which could be sewn on to other surfaces. By the 1930s collecting was widespread with albums for the cards readily available from tobacconists.
This complete set of 100 cigarette cards was collected by Bryan Turner, who had ready access to the cigarette packets in Turner's Confectionary Shop. Bryan was 9 years old when this series was issued in 1934. When his parents weren't looking, Bryan carefully opened the cellophane wrapper on new packets of cigarettes, removed the card and replaced it with one which he had already. Bryan also received cards from his parents who both smoked. Bryan began smoking at age 5 or 6, smoking bamboo and also cigarettes stolen from his parents. He remembers that there were only two things you could do when he was growing up: "smoke and wear long pants". His mother tried to stop him smoking by ordering him to smoke an entire packet. Bryan managed to smoke them all, without being sick. He continues smoking today.