SMALL vintage tobacco premium flag silk of a brightly colored red and white flag labeled as that of Iceland - one of the Scandinavian countries - an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Greenland. This flag silk was distributed between 1911 and 1916 with Sovereign Cigarettes, as part of its popular Flags of America series. Sovereign Cigarettes, made in New York, was one of several brands sold by the American Tobacco Company. The name "Iceland" is printed next to the image. "Sovereign Cigarettes" is printed along the lower edge, and the factory number and location are printed along the top. Small flag measures 3" x 1".
Prior to 1915, Iceland was part of Denmark. This split flag - a field of red bisected by a white cross dividing the field into four equal quadrants with the cyphers "KGH" in gold across the white transverse, and crossed gold crossed harpoons in the upper left quadrant - resembles the Danish flag, which has remained largely the same since the 13th Century (although the split flag was not generally used after 1856). The cyphers suggest this version may have actually been a Danish merchant flag or a standard for the royal Danish household. At the time this flag silk was distributed, a version of the Danish flag like this one may have been used in Iceland. From 1915 on, Iceland was a separate kingdom, although united under the same King, and adopted a red-white-blue crossed Icelandic flag totally different from this one.
During the early 20th Century, American Tobacco Company was one of a number of cigarette companies that gave free silks, flannels or leather to customers who purchased their tobacco products. These textile items were distributed either as an "insert" (sometimes in an envelope, into the tobacco packaging, and sometimes attached to the outside) or as a "premium" (given away in exchange for coupons inserted in the packaging). The small 3" x 1" silks were usually inserts in the product. The larger silks were usually premiums given in exchange for coupons.
The cigarette "silk" was one of the most popular of the textile tobacco inserts or premiums. They were often beautifully polychrome printed, with a number of different themes. And although called "silks" they were actually made from a variety of fabrics such as silk or silk satin, a cloth combination of silk and cotton, a cotton sateen or even a plain woven cotton. Tobacco silks and flannels were often used by women to make quilts and other textile objects. (It is thought that distributing these textiles with tobacco products may have been a marketing strategy to entice women into smoking cigarettes.)
CONDITION NOTE: Tobacco silks often show their age. Since the borders of tobacco silks are almost never finished, they are usually frayed, and on some silks the name "Sovereign Cigarettes" and the factory information are partially, and sometimes completely, obliterated by fraying along the borders. This one is unusual in that all of the lettering on the top and bottom is completely intact. There are also few slight wrinkles, which may disappear with a careful pressing on delicate setting. Areas of minor age fabric discoloration are much less noticeable in person than in this scanned image.
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