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Published: 03 October 2020

By Andy Ross

Article of the Week - number thirty four - a tobacco silk

Each week on the blog, an item is selected to write about. This week it is a Tobacco Silk. 

In the 19th Century bundles of cigars were tied together with silk ribbons imprinted with the maker's name. These ribbons were the first textiles to be used in tobacco product advertising and marketing, and the ribbons were often collected to be sewn together to create squares and quilts. Gradually the practice of inserting small squares of silk, then paper and other textiles, printed with novelty images such as actresses of the day, butterflies or flowers, grew in popularity driven by the demand from homemakers. It was a golden opportunity for tobacco manufacturers to sell more of their wares and so the silks became more and more elaborate, sometimes even being produced as collectible sets.  

The piece in our collection is from the USA and is printed, double-sided, onto felt flannel, even though it is still called a "silk". It features iconography from different First Nation cultures in the USA. 

You can read more about tobacco silks here.