SMALL vintage British Colonial Empire Union Jack tobacco premium flag silks - British North Borneo - 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 "British North Borneo" 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 silk measures 3" x 1".
The Civil Ensign of British North Borneo - the British red & yellow lion emblem on a field of red, and a canton with Britain's Union Jack in the upper left corner - was used from 1882-1948, Inhabitants of North Borneo were not British subjects and therefore not entitled to fly the plain Red Ensign. This version - with the lion facing the fly - was used until 1903 when the lion was changed to face the hoist.
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" x 3" silks were usually inserts in the product. The larger silks were usually premiums given in exchange for coupons. These small silks were most likely distributed as inserts.
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. Any 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. #01-0433L-22b
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