SMALL vintage tobacco premium flag silk - the brightly-colored national flag of the Kingdom of Poland - distributed between 1911 and 1917, as one 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 "Poland" is printed next to the image. "Sovereign Cigarettes" and the factory number and location are printed along the borders. SMALL flag silks measure 3" x 1".
Poland is one of several Eastern European countries repeatedly affected by war over its history. The borders have changed radically over the years, but the country has basically remained intact. This is the flag of the Kingdom of Poland - a large blue saltire (Saint Andrew's) cross against a field of white with a golden eagle and crown set in a red canton in the upper left corner - which existed in name from just after the Napoleonic Wars until 1917. During this entire time, the affairs of Poland were actually under the control of Imperial Russia.
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 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, however, is in exceptionally good condition. Although there is some fraying along the top and bottom borders, the lettering of "Sovereign Cigarettes" and the factory and location information are both 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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