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Dont slam the door.

I have mentioned many times that certain cigarette card issuers have a certain style of their own. It might be me just getting a bit to close to things and seeing patterns on the surface of Mars which are not really there. However read the backs of enough Wills cards and you begin to realise there is a certain resemblance to technical manuals there.

The reverse of some of the dog cards are like something Dr Frankenstein would have written as research notes rather than a dog owner describing a personality. I have long enjoyed the output of Churchmans cigarettes because there is a certain lack of thought about them. In a world concerned with ratings and how to shift more product more effectively there seems little time for idiosyncratic behaviours or whims.

Where there is individuality it is either the crazed zany type which now comes out of bottles lined up on advertisers shelves or it is the true maverick which becomes successful enough to be bought out by the suits.

Churchmans were part of the ITC group but the card output shows a determination to be different. Lambert & Butler also have this trait and I should give them more air-time on this site (mental note made, expect to see more L&B cards soon).

...claiming I was returning to good old Victorian values

Lets take 1928, for an example (you'll have guessed this is not a date I have just plucked out of the air I like to give coincidence a helping hand wherever possible). In 1928 the major manufacturers produced (46 sets of cards examined) 16 sets on sports related topics 4 on cinema acting etc, 5 sets on animal, dogs etc. So three topics accounted for over 50% of the output. There was a rash of Egypt sets because of big Egyptian revival thing going on and the odd set on a variety of topics. None of these topics represented anything other than mainstream interests.

Now I am not saying Churchman had nothing to do with this in fact they produced the Men of the Moment in Sport series in this period, it was 1928 I think we were still worried womens internal organs were going to fly clear out of them if anything more than a bit of gentle jogging and cleaning was asked of them. But there is one set which stands head and shoulders above the rest as a bit of inspired lunacy.

Below is a reconstruction of how the conversation might have gone...

WA: We need another set of cigarette cards this year AC.

AC: Surely, lets do an animal related set.

WA: No, its been done to many times already. I've got an idea for a set.

AC: If it has the word 'curious' in the title don't even tell me.

WA: Uncomfortable silence whilst a minute inspection of the boardroom table ensues.

AC: pressing home his advantage and doing a comical impression of WA, 'How about a set called "Curious signs."' Dropping the mime, 'that was 1925's big idea and you couldn't let it lie, 1926, "lets do Curious Dwellings". What was it last year, "lets do curious vegetables", thank goodness I vetoed that one if I had seen one more curious potato...'

WA: 'Interesting. Its called interesting all right.', clearly annoyed.

Silence as AC struggles to contain himself, 'At least it doesn't have the word silhouettes in it, remember that? Or the sectional cycling map...What is it then.'

WA: 'Interesting Knockers.'

AC: Choking on his coffee. 'Interesting knockers. What the blazes, how are we going to get this past the censors, we were never keen on producing 'beauty' sets when everyone was showing as many interesting 'knockers' as possible.'

WA:'For Lord sake AC you've a mind like Benny Hill. How about 'Interesting door knockers' then.'

AC: Incredulous, 'You think you can make a set about door knockers interesting. It might be time for a holiday for you.'

WA: Brightening, 'Great I'll go to the Norfolk broads a nice boating holiday, haven't done that for a few years.'

AC:'You will not and nor will it be a cycling holiday this time. Do this set, only 25 cards though and then take a nice holiday, perhaps a good long train journey or two.'

Lets leave those two in their virtual boardroom and return to the present. The set which is sitting in front of me now enriches the cigarette card world beyond calculation really. The cards are pictorially dominated by the door-knocker as you would expect but 'behind' this is the place from whence this knocker came so the cards are lifted in interest content. At the bottom of the card in small text is the name of the place.

This is another set which makes me want to get out of my chair and see if these door knockers still exist. Given the description of some of them it seems unlikely now some were described as turning to rust even then, others had been removed for purposes of preservation and others seem to be but memory. I am going to resist the urge to go and find these door knockers for the simple reason I have rather to many 'interests' already. I spend a fair bit of time looking at the skyline because chimney pots are just so interesting, imagine if I have to spend time looking at door frames as well on the off-chance their is an interesting door knocker. The odds of me being successfully re-introduced into society would grow slimmer by the moment.

The door knockers themselves are not necessarily interesting (although some look fascinating to modern eyes accustomed to little plastic bell pushes) it is the location and perhaps the one-time owners of the buildings which make these things interesting.

Details from Card
Charles Dickens Knocker
This knocker was on the door of 48 Doughty Street, London, WC, during the period when the house was occupied by Charles Dickens. The great novelist lived here from March, 1837 until the end of 1839, when he moved to Devonshire Terrace. At 48 Doughty Street he finished the Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist, wrote part of Nicolas Nickleby and commenced Barnaby Rudge. In order to preserve it, the historic knocker has been taken from the door, and replaced by a modern brass one.

The first major disappointment for me is card number 8. Charles Dickens knocker. It does not look like Marley's Ghost. In fact there is nothing to recommend it at all. The house shown is 48 Doughty Street, London. I'll let the card itself to explain, it does a good job.

Doesn't that final line jar, modern is now at least 70 years old of course and I bet it was not exactly new at the time of the card being written but still a 'modern brass one' it sounds positively vile I can see one of those stay-brite creations or something called brass plated you can get at a do-it-yourself shop. I know snobby Franklyn, well this house has three plastic door bell pushes and only one of them works as far as I can remember but I don't know which one.

Card 14 is the knocker at Lambeth Palace. I only mention it because it was decaying to rust at the time the card was issued and that it looks almost exactly the same as Dickens door knocker.

Knocker at Portman Square

Nowadays you can expect to see a big blue plaque on the front of the building proclaiming Charles Dickens lived here. I see these things dotted about here and there but seldom stop to think what it means. It means Charles Dickens lived there in the same sense I live here. He walked in and out of the door, he stepped on the pavement outside the house, he lived there. Odd.

Now I do not want to get too over excited about the symbolism of door knockers but card 9 has got something to tell us. It is the door knocker on the Sanctuary door of Durham Cathedral. If anything is designed to make a sinner repent this is the one. It is situated on the North door of the Nave and measures 1 foot by 10 inches so it gets noticed this thing. It dates from the 12th Century, that's old in anyones language. Between the dates of 1464 and 1524 330 fugitives claimed sanctuary at the cathedral. Most of these claimants were running from crimes such as homicide or murder.

If the criminal made it to the sanctuary knocker they were saved from the law as long as they reached consecrated ground. Upon hearing them the monks would bring them in make them confess and then lay down their arms. This done the criminal had to toll the sanctuary bell. They then were put into the robes of St Cuthbert. The culprits then had 40 days to plead guilty and if they did they were allowed to flee the country. That's history that is.

'Modern brass' really does not sound keeping with the original intention of the door knocker which looks like iron. Another example of the days before the Preservation Police got to work on Britain. A few years ago I was not allowed to replace the windows of a Victorian terrace with anything other than wood because it would detract from the original effect of the frontages. The fact the house was the only one with an original door probably detracted from the UPVC doors stuck into so many of the buildings down the street. My argument that I should also be allowed to string washing across the street for purposes of authenticity and demand cars were banned from going up and down the street seemed to fall on deaf ears and another perfectly good day wasted at the local council who seemed keen on keeping the rates policy as modern as possible.

Before the age of electricity and the like you can see why larger houses had doormen and the like. If they did not the chances of you ever getting into the places must have been close to zero. Chepstow Castle is on card 7. What are the odds of making yourself heard to the occupants of a castle and what sort of door knocker might do the trick. Well the one illustrated has a chance if you could actually operate the thing. Basically a large cannonball on the end of two large iron links. The card fails to tell us the combined weight of the arrangement but either way quite how effective even this would be at alerting the occupants there is a double glazing salesman at the castle gate is debatable. Whilst on the subject of castles card 25 is the knocker at Windsor castle. Now this looks like something you would expect to find in a Victorian human biology book rather than a door knocker. The reverse of the card suggests, 'The specimen illustrated here, which is fashioned in wrought irn, strongly suggests a spur.' Well if you say so.

It is a commonly held misconception that the criminal had to hang onto the sanctuary knocker. This is not the case. The sanctuary ruling came into place in the 7th century and was ceased in 1623. When a person admitted his crime he could leave the country or face trial, his choice. If he failed to admit his crime then he could be starved into admittance.
If the criminal decided leaving the country was a good idea often he would have to do this in sack-cloth bare headed and bear foot, carrying a cross. It was also a good idea that he followed the main road to port because if he strayed from that path he could be executed on the spot.

I am jumping about this set a bit but you cant stop me. Card two. These are at 48 Berkeley Square London. The knocker is in fact a dolphin arrangement but this is not the reason we are looking at the card. Nor is it because these knockers belonged to Sir J Berkeley but it is because they belonged for a period of time to Lord Charles Beresford. The reason we are actually looking at this card is because it illustrates some Victorian values for us all to bear in mind, no not the killing of foreign types, not keeping poorer classes as servants these are the Victorian values we seem to have kept. This is the hobby of 'knocker-wrenching'. Now please you know it is only super-human effort stopping me making puerile jokes but my how I have laughed at them. Anyway this was basically the wanton destruction of someone elses knocker. Although destruction is not quite what it was about as it was more like coveting someone elses knockers. Beresford spied these Dolphins and decided he wanted them. Returning he attached a rope around the knockers and the other end of the rope attached to his horse and carriage. Driving away it seemed the knockers put up some resistance but finally came loose along with the door panels they were attached to.

Marleys Ghost

How I would love to head down to Downing Street with horse and carriage and tear the door knockers of the Governments housing claiming I was returning to good old Victorian values as ascribed to by Lord Beresford. I am not quite sure what we prattle on about when we want to return to Victorian value perhaps it is the pushing of small boys up chimneys whilst the rest of the family rot in the workhouses. If one more politician tells me they want to go back to Victorian values I would like to fold them up and stuff them up their own chimney.

The Prime Minister's knocker appears on card 19. More fun if it had appeared on card 10 but the set seems to have a vague feel of alphabetical order to it, it is one of those orders where you just about see it if you squint a bit, like those odd pictures you get. Now just imagine the people that have knocked on that door with the door knocker illustrated, now that really is something. Next time I see a picture of the famous black door of ten Downing Street I am going to take a good look at it. Hope I see the door knocker. The card also shows a very different Downing street to the one we see (or at least almost allowed to see) now.

Details from Card
"Marley Ghost", Craven Street Charing Cross
One Christmas Eve as the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge approached his door-knocker, he was startled to see it change into a horrible likeness of his dead partner Marley. There must be few readers who are not familiar with Dicken Christmas Carol and its story of Scrooge's conversion. On Christmas morning the reformed miser on seeing his knocker again, exclaimed, 'I shall love it as long as I live!' Dickens possibly derived his inspiration from a knocker type illustrated which formerly adorned the door of a house in Craven Street where the novelist may have seen it.

Card 17 though is everything I could have ever hoped for. I give you the card and the text.

Awesome stuff and if I am not careful I am really going to get into this door knocker thing, already I can see myself taking pictures of old door knockers, making unique door knockers. It is a whole art form I have totally neglected. If only there was time and energy enough for all the projects I want to do today let alone all the ones I will want to do tomorrow.

I am going to leave this set now but thankyou Churchmans for producing this set of cards a jewel amongst the footballing cards.