LARGE vintage tobacco premium flag silk - the brightly colored green, white and red national flag of Italy, with the music and lyrics to the Italian National Hymn - distributed between 1911 and 1916 by Nebo Cigarettes, as part of its popular Flags of World series. Nebo Cigarettes, made in New York, was one of several brands sold by the American Tobacco Company. The name "Italy" is printed above the image. "Nebo Cigarettes" is printed along the lower edge, as are the factory number and location. LARGE flag silks measure 4-7/8" x 2-7/8".
This Italian national flag - a shield of a white cross on a field of red field topped by a crown set against three alternating green, white and red bars, and surrounded with a golden fringe - was used from 1848-1946.
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 mailed in exchange for coupons enclosed with the cigarettes.
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 "Nebo Cigarettes" and the factory information are partially, and sometimes completely, obliterated by fraying along the borders. These are unusual in that all of the lettering on both 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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