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What have that said

It would perhaps be foolhardy to ignore the dangers of smoking given the evidence medical science has given us. But without smoking, cigarette card collecting would be very restricted indeed. For the next few minutes I am going to go back in time, to a happier time when people did not necessarily live long enough to discover smoking would kill them.

Charles Kingsley died aged 55 (23 Jan 1875), novelist, poet, theologian and scientist he also smoked and loved it. In a letter he wrote,

'Don't fire at me about smoking. I do it because it does me good and I could not (for I have tried and tried again) do without it. In the meantime I am keeping no horse- a most real sacrifice to me. I smoke very cheap tobacco.'

He seemed to have a rather strange relationship with the weed. Fun to see he was unable to do without it.

Kingsley was also to put these words into a characters mouth (Westward Ho!)

not really until 1854-55 that smoking cigarettes grew in popularity

'Ah sir, no lie, but a blessed truth, as I can tell, who have 'ere now gone in the strength of this weed three days and three nights without eating; and therefore sir, the Indians always carry it with them on their war parties; and no wonder; for when all things were made none was made better than this; to be a line man's companion, a bachelor's friend, a hungry man's bread, a sad man's cordial, a wakeful man's sleep, and a chilly man's fire, sir; while for the staunching of wounds, purging of rheum, and settling of the stomach, there's no herb like it under the canopy of heaven.'

Well not bad, and all in one sentence too(!) You don't see sentence construction like that everyday of the week and we are all the better for it <g>.

On the same vein Robert Burton (1577-1640) thought he had found the cure for everything in tobacco.

'..divine, rare, super-excellent tobacco, which goes far beyond all the panaceas, potable gold and philosopher's stones; a sovereign remedy to all diseases.'

Difficult to add anything to that really but the same writer does go on and ruin the illusion, 'But, as it is commonly abused by most men, which take it as tinkers do ale, 'tis a plague, a mischief, a violent purger of goods, land, health, hellish, devilish and damned tobacco, the ruin and overthrow of body and soul.'

Perhaps Charles Kingsley would agree having given up his horse for smoking. It does seem Robert Burton is trying to cover all basis and his argument seems to be tobacco by prescription only.

Sir Walter Raleigh is credited with bringing the weed back to England but it did him no good. In 1618 he was having his head removed from his body (although not something directly related to smoking) it is said that he drew deeply from a pipe before gaining the scaffold. It was even meant to have mortified the more formal persons watching the occasion.

If he had bothered to count up all the stores selling tobacco in London (1614) he would have counted somewhere in the region of 7,000 and if he had counted all the money that changed hands in the rush for tobacco it would have come to just under £4million that year.

James I was an early example of the anti-smoking lobby, 'A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black, stinking fume thereof nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless.' A definite no vote from him but as he was a lanky shirt-lifter whose he to be right about the ill effects of smoking three hundred years before his time.

Lord Byron (mad, bad and dangerous to know.) was also a tobacco fan. He wrote in 1811, 'I don't know that I have acquired anything by my travels but a smattering of languages and the habit of chewing Tobacco.'

The American humorists Samuel Langhorne Clemens (gratefully known as Mark Twain) coined the immortal, and oft (mis)quoted phrase, 'To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did; I ought to know because I have done it a thousand times.' Less famously he was to say, 'It has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep and never to refrain when awake.'

Sir Arthur Helps (1813-1875) was a pro-smoker although his views on America are unclear, when he wrote, 'What a blessing smoking is! - perhaps the greatest that we owe to the discovery of America.' It is a little difficult to decide of this damnation by fake praise.

Charles Sprague (1791-1875) enjoyed a lengthier stay on the planet than Athur and also lived in America. He wrote a verse to his cigar,

'Yes social friend, I love thee well,

In learned doctors' spite;

Thy clouds all other clouds dispel,

And lap me in delight.'

Perhaps it was not only tobacco rolled in those cigars.

Alfred Tennyson (poet laureate) was a great smoker, '...he smokes the strongest and most stinking tobacco out of a small blackened clay pipe on an average nine hours of every day.' Writes a presumed non-smoker.

It should be noted that pipe smoking or chewing tobacco was not confined to the male proportion of the world. Many women indulged in this art form although they were to lose the knack for a while it now seems there are more women taking up smoking than there are men. Once a verse went;

'Pernicious weed! whose scent the fair annoys,

Unfriendly to society's chief joys,

Thy worst effect is banishing for hours

The sex whose presence civilises ours.

1731-1800

In fact it was not really until 1854-55 that smoking cigarettes grew in popularity. When the men of the Crimean war returned it gave enough of a demand for the first cigarette factory to open in Great Britain.

Plenty of words have been wasted both for and against smoking but whatever happens at least this generation and the next are going to be allowed to smoke themselves into a grave, early or otherwise. After that goodness knows. Whatever happens though cigarette cards are probably a thing of the past and more is the pity. Smoking might have killed you just as quickly back then but it also educated. A microcosm of life.