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1912-1929 First Republic of China National Flag - China Awakening Revolutionary Poem - Vintage Early 1900's Zira Cigarette Silk - American Tobacco Company Advertising Premium
MID-SIZED vintage Zira Cigarettes tobacco premium flag silk - the Republic of China National flag from 1912-1929, with a Chinese revolutionary poem titled "China Awakening" - distributed between 1911 and 1916 by Zira Cigarettes, as part of its popular Flags of the World series. Zira Cigarettes, made in New York, was one of several brands sold by the American Tobacco Company. The name "China" is printed above the image. "Zira Cigarettes" is printed along the lower edge, as are the factory number and location. Mid-sized flag silks measures 3-3/4" x 2-3/4".
When the Manchu [Ch'ing] dynasty was overthrown in 1912 by Sun Yat-sen, the traditional "dragon" flag of China was replaced by this five-color (red, yellow, blue, white and black) horizontal stripe flag, chosen as a compromise among the warring revolutionary factions of the new Republic of China. It was superseded in the late 1920s, when China was finally unified by the Kuo-min-tang under Chiang-Kai-shek.
We have been unable to identify either the author or the publication date for the revolutionary poem "China Awakening". The text on the flag reads as follows:
"CHINA AWAKENING: Awake! my country; sweet Cathay! Awake! Here dawns a glorious day. Myriad foes encompass thee -- Arise, my country, and be free! Let tyrants feel thy righteous rage, Make foes restore they heritage."
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 "Zira 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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Kris Armour, New London, CT
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