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Thursday, 20th December 2007
Franklyn Echo:
An Introduction

I would say it is almost impossible to imagine the impact the first cigarette cards had on the buying public. Photography was not anything like the click and develop process it is today. Indeed photography was considered by insurers as a dangerous profession. If the still image was in its infancy the moving image was at best a twinkle in its inventors eye.

For everyday transport the horse was still as fast as most people were going to get. There had been many changes but if you lived in a village it is a safe bet that your Great-Great-Grandmother had lived there and would still be able to recognize the place.

News was in newspapers and that was delivered in very close small type with very few illustrations and those that were included were hand-drawn. The news itself often very out of date by the time it appeared. Today news is constant, global and instantaneous. If a bomb exploded in London at midnight most of the planet would know it had happened before Johnny-Brit knew. News then was in newspapers and that was delivered in very close small type with very few illustrations and those that were included were hand-drawn. The news itself often very out of date by the time it appeared. Sorry, been watching too much 24 hour news, in fifteen minutes a man can come back from the stars, a war can start but usually they just repeat what they said 15 minutes ago.

Now imagine finding a card in your cigarettes, perhaps a black-and-white photograph of a theatre actress or actor representing a little bit of glamour or London sophistication. Perhaps a photograph of an army general you have heard about fighting in a far off land. Or perhaps it is just an everyday scene from that far away place with a person much like yourself staring into camera.

Alternatively the card would be a well-drawn colour image.

These cards were given 'free' and were yours to keep and keep them people did.

Later on the cigarette card was caught up by other media, newspapers would include photographs. The cinema presented news reels informed but still in black and white.

Imagine seeing the faces or the actions in which the heroes of the Empire were winning their Victoria Crosses.

On the reverse of the cards was a potted history like nothing else you had ever read, real facts accessible and not long enough to be tedious.

Still the world marched on and left the First World War behind.

The content of cards then shifted showing sporting heroes, historical events, or perhaps the screen actors people saw weekly at the cinema. On the reverse of the cards would be a miniature encyclopedia of knowledge.

Again this information might well have been the first time the person holding the card had ever read such things. Today we are constantly informed. There are books about books which hold sporting statistics. I want to know something I load the CD of the book or head for the internet. The lives of people in the public eye are under constant scrutiny but this was not always so.

We are soon to leave this century and there are going to be endless review programs and this is the beginning of another.

Hopefully this has given you an idea of the sort of world the cigarette card entered into and the impact it might have had. It certainly has me as I did the work on this page and the pages which will follow I have gained a greater understanding the little bits of card I shift about the globe.

Every month I will showcase another decade of historical events and how they were depicted on cigarette cards, some decades have more to offer than others but all are important.

This is actually some of the most intensive 'hitting the books' pages I have attempted on this site and there is nothing like giving yourself even more work to do. Still I am learning all the time and hopefully you will all learn something new too, even if the knowledge is basically useless (but then again so much of what we know really is useless.)