I’m on Fire- Cigarette Smoking in Vintage Posters

May 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

Job Cigarette Papers

Job Cigarette Papers by Cheret

Early cigarette advertising posters mainly feature rolling papers.  Smokers purchased their tobacco and rolled their own.

This image by Jules Cheret (1836-1932) was created in 1895 and boasted that Job cigarette papers had won awards at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1889.  That was an important World’s Fair for many reasons, and because of it we have Gustav Eiffel’s Tower.  The  redhead  in the poster was emblematic of Cheret’s Belle Epoque style; he captures a ‘Modern’ women displaying her independence by smoking! Other clues to her modernity include her red rinsed hair and her posture of independence.  Cheret also loved to depict women in his posters twisting at the waist to showcase their corsetted midriff.  He used this image as plate number one in his Maitre de L’Affiche series.


Cachou Lajaunie by Tamagno

Cachou Lajaunie by Tamagno

Francesco Tamagno (1853-1933) captures another turn of the century beauty in his poster for the breath mint  Cachou Lajaunie circa 1890. This mint, which you can still buy in France today, was often advertised to smokers, inferring that it’s strength would cover up smokers’s breath.  The red haired, wasp waisted figure seems to be flirting with the various gentlemen in the poster, and perhaps their fresh breath will influence her choice of a suitor.


Je Ne Fume Que Le Nil by Cappiello

Je Ne Fume Que Le Nil by Cappiello

Le Nil cigarette papers were manufactured by the Joseph Bardou Company.  This company was owned by one of the sons of the JOB cigarette paper brand.  Le Nil  had used a white elephant in their posters before (supposedly a white elephant with its trunk uplifted symbolizes good luck) so Cappiello (1875-1942) decided to stick with their ‘brand’ when he created this luciously colored poster in 1912.


Cigarettes Saphir

Cigarettes Saphir

Cigarettes Saphir by Stephano features an exotic woman with a Hookah surrounded by curls of smoke.
She advertises a machine rolled cigarette, which would have been a luxury product in 1908 when most smokers still rolled their own.  This poster has elements of Art Nouveau style, such as curvy lines and ornamentation, but the artists use of color and contrast show the poster moving towards art deco.


Pelican Cigarettes

Pelican Cigarettes

This Pelican Cigarettes poster, circa 1925,  by Charles Yray, features tobacco from Virginia packaged in a beautiful Art Deco style tin.  Tobacco from Virginia would have been a very special export in France in the 1920s.  This poster is quintessentially art deco- Yray’s use of high contrast images and bold colors make the poster pop, and the reverse silhouette is a satisfying part of the design.
Smoking was still in fashion in the 1920s.  The woman in the Cachou Lajaunie Poster asserts her independence with her saucy feathered (?) dress, her tobacco habit and her choice of mint.  Choosing Cachou Lajaunie allows her to smoke AND to attract suitors.  In a twist from the 1890’s poster, she is no longer offering the mint to smokers and would be suitors, SHE is now the smoker.


Vous Pouvez Voir Clair

Vous Pouvez Voir Clair

In The ‘Bonnes Lunettes’ Poster, the smoker has assumed the persona of the cool beatnik “You can see clearly when you wear good glasses” is what the poster says.  But it infers smoky jazz clubs, where your vision is clouded by the smoky haze of cocktails.


Cachou Lajaunie - Cappiell

Cachou Lajaunie - Cappiell

I will end this post with ‘Cachou Lajaunie’ by Cappiello.  This striking poster features a ‘modern’ woman circa 1920.  How do we know she is modern?  Three clues- her red rinsed hair, her modern attire, and the fact that she is smoking! All of these things suggest independence.

Since I have quit smoking, that makes me independent too.  Cheers!



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§ 2 Responses to I’m on Fire- Cigarette Smoking in Vintage Posters

  • Jen says:

    I love these classy old posters. Vintage art posters tell a great story of society in the past. A great historical record.

  • Richard says:

    Hi–I have the Pelican Cigarette poster, and was wondering what its worth. I purchased it about 20 years ago, just because I liked the pelican, and had it framed well. Its hung in my living room since, out of the direct sunshine. I’ve never seen another, and am not interested in selling it, but its time to renew my insurance….
    Thanks in advance for any in formation.

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