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Kris Armour, New London, CT   

Native American Apache Chief Black Hawk Tobacco Premium – Geronimo’s Tribe - Early 1900s Vintage Cigarette Silks - Zira Cigarettes Tobacco Advertising -  American Tobacco Company

LARGE vintage tobacco premium silk with the image of Native American Apache Black Hawk, identified as one of Geronimo's band, 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 "Black Hawk – Apache – one of Geronimo's Band". LARGE silk measures 4-3/4" x 2-7/8".

Apache is the collective term for several culturally related groups of Native Americans originally from the Southwest United States. The current division of Apachean groups includes the Navajo, Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, and Plains Apache (formerly Kiowa-Apache).

Geronimo (June 16, 1829 – February 17, 1909), was a prominent leader, warrior, and medicine man of the Bedonkohe band of the Chiricahua Apache, who fought against Mexico and the United States for their expansion into Apache tribal lands for several decades during the Apache Wars. In 1886 Geronimo surrendered to U.S. authorities after a lengthy pursuit. As a prisoner of war in old age he became a celebrity and appeared in fairs[6] but was never allowed to return to the land of his birth. He later regretted his surrender and claimed the conditions he made had been ignored. Geronimo died in 1909 from complications of pneumonia at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

There is some question this Black Hawk is correctly identified as "one of Geronimo's band". We have seen a circa 1900 stereo-view card of a Black Hawk with an identical image to this one, but identified as a member of the Kiowa Apache (Plains Apache). If he is actually "part of Geronimo's Band" as labeled on the silk, he would actually be a Chirichaua Apache centered in the mountains of New Mexico. Which identification is the correct one is unclear.

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 -3/4" 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: 01-0433S

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Native American Apache Chief Black Hawk Tobacco Premium – Geronimo’s Tribe - Early 1900s Vintage Cigarette Silks - Zira Cigarettes Tobacco Advertising - American Tobacco Company


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Connecticut Yankee Antiques and Collectibles

Kris Armour
New London, CT   

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