SMALL vintage tobacco premium flag silk - the National flag of Belgium, a country on the northwestern coast of Europe sandwiched between the Netherlands and France - distributed between 1911 and 1916 with Sovereign Cigarettes, as part of its popular Flags of the World Series. Sovereign Cigarettes, made in New York, was one of several brands sold by the American Tobacco Company. The name "Belgium" is printed next to the image. "Sovereign Cigarettes" and the factory number and location are printed along the borders. This silk is also imprinted with the number "84" - somewhat unusual as most Sovereign silks are not numbered. Small silk measures 3" x 1".
Belgium is a constitutional monarchy, which has served as a major battleground during both World War One and World War Two. It's also known as the home of one of Agatha Christie's most famous fictional detectives, Hercule Poirot. This brightly colored national flag - a vertical tricolor of black, yellow and red with vertical - has been in use since 1830.
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" x 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 no exception. The factory information is partially obscured by fraying along the top border. All of the other lettering 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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