SMALL vintage tobacco premium flag silk - the brightly colored green and red national flag of the Portuguese Republic - distributed between 1911 and 1916 with Sovereign Cigarettes, as part of its popular Flags of the World America series. Sovereign Cigarettes, made in New York, was one of several brands sold by the American Tobacco Company. The name "Republic of Portugal" 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 silks measure 3" x 1".
Portugal is located on the Atlantic coast of the Iberian peninsula which it shares with Spain. The Portuguese language is similar to, but not the same as, the Spanish language. The Republic of Portugal national flag - unequal bands of green at the hoist and red at the fly divided vertically with the Portuguese coat of arms, consisting of of a shield bisected by equal vertical bands of green and red with a yellow emblem in the center, and centered on the partition - has remained the same since the Republic was established in October 1910.
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, although both top and bottom borders are somewhat frayed, the lettering for "Sovereign Cigarettes" and the factory information is almost completely intact. Very slight wrinkles 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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