LARGE vintage tobacco premium silk with the image of a mounted Native American Lakota Sioux War Chief in full regalia distributed between 1911 and 1916 with Zira Cigarettes, as one of its popular American Indian series. Zira Cigarettes, made in New Jersey, was one of several brands sold by the American Tobacco Company. Zira Cigarettes is printed along the lower border along with the caption "Sioux Native American War Chief in Full Regalia". Large silk measures 4-3/4" x 2-7/8".
The Sioux are the second most populous linguistic American Indian family North of Mexico (after the Algonquian). The principal body of Sioux tribes extended from the west bank of the Mississippi and north bank of the Arkansas, west nearly to the Rocky Mountains, and north into Canada, near Lake Winnipeg.
The Sioux are grouped into three major divisions based on Siouan dialect and subculture: those residing in the extreme east of the Dakotas, Minnesota and northern Iowa often referred to as the Santee or Eastern Dakota Sioux; those residing in the Minnesota River valley, consider to be the middle Sioux, often referred to as the Yankton and Yanktonai, or the Western Dakota Sioux; the western-most Sioux, known for their hunting and warrior culture, often referred to as the Lakota Sioux. This image is clearly intended to be a Lakota Sioux.
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 1 ¾" x 3" silks were usually inserts in the product. The larger silks were usually premiums given in exchange for coupons. This small silk was most likely distributed as an insert.
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: Excellent condition for a tobacco silk, which often shows its age. Since the borders of tobacco silks are almost never finished, they are usually frayed, and this one is no exception. On some silks "Sovereign Cigarettes" and the factory information are partially, and sometimes completely, obliterated by fraying along the borders. On others, both are completely intact. There are also usually a 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 the scanned images.
Item ID: 01-0433R
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