Two vintage SMALL tobacco silk inserts with flags of Africa - Liberia and Madagascar - distributed between 1911 and 1916 with Sovereign Cigarettes, as part of its popular Flags of th World series. Sovereign Cigarettes, made in New York, was one of several brands sold by the American Tobacco Company. The name of each country is printed next to the flag image. "Sovereign Cigarettes" and the factory number and location are printed along the borders. SMALL flag silks measure 3" x 1".
Liberia, founded on the west coast of Africa by former African American slaves from the United States, became an independent country in 1845. Liberia has had the same national flag modeled on the United States flag - eleven red and white stripes with a blue canton containing a white five-pointed star - since it became independent.
Madagascar, a large island off the southeast coast of the African Continent, was an independent kingdom "protectorate" of the French government from 1865-1896, after which it became a full-fledged French colony. This flag of the Madagascar Protectorate - alternating bands of red, white and blue, with a red crescent on the white band near the hoist - was probably inspired by the French tricolor, which it resembles.
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.
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. These, however, are in unusually good condition. The name "Sovereign Cigarettes" and the factory information are almost completely intact, with some letters only slightly obscured by fraying along the border. On others, all or part of the 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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