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VIRGIL JOHNSON COLLECTION OF CIGARETTE PACKAGES, CA. 1890-1997
#645

(25 cu. ft.:  2 DB, 21 F/O, 3 Shoeboxes)

by: Mimi Minnick, July 1998

Biography

As a teenager, Virgil Johnson [b.1918] became interested in the designs and symbols on cigarette packs like "Black Cat" and "White Roll", and he began actively collecting in the 1930s. His interest intensified during the 1940s when he was stationed in North Africa and across the Mediterranean region as a photographer with the U.S. Navy. Mr. Johnson collected cigarette packs for over fifty years, and was a member of the Cigarette Pack Collector's Association.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of approximately 6,000 cigarette packages, ca. 1890-1997, arranged in 24 albums. The cigarette packages offer a strong base for research into the categories of visual imagery created, associated with, and manipulated for the sale of tobacco products. Researchers interested in the history of design will also find these packages a useful source, as they reflect design modifications (in image, logo, typeface, and package features) over time for virtually every brand marketed in the U.S. and an enormous selection of those marketed overseas, by both U.S. and other global tobacco concerns.

This collection is arranged into three (3) Series:

Series 1: CIGARETTE PACKAGES, 1890-1997 Packages were carefully unfolded and flattened by the collector, then mounted with Duco cement on heavyweight 11"x17" paper. For each package there are also a cigarette wrapper and a sample of the filter material.

Subseries 1: Foreign Cigarettes manufactured and/or sold in foreign countries, including American cigarettes sold overseas. They are organized by country of origin and then under alphabetically by name of manufacturer.

Subseries 2: American Cigarettes manufactured and sold in the United States; arranged alphabetically by name of manufacturer.

Subseries 3: Index Cards Card file index maintained by the collector cross-referencing name and manufacturer and indicating album location, date, and other identifying information for each pack. Boxes 22 and 23 are foreign cigarettes arranged alphabetically by brand. Box 24 is American cigarettes arranged alphabetically by brand.

Series 2: BOOKS AND ARTICLES ABOUT TOBACCO AND TOBACCO COLLECTING, 1927-1994 Includes one box of publications about the history of tobacco and tobacco collecting, and one box of newsletters of the Cigarette Pack Collector's Association, Brandstand: Viewing the World of Cigarette Collecting, ca. 1978-1998.

Series 3: BOOKS ABOUT TOBACCO AND TOBACCO COLLECTING These titles have been transferred to NMAH Library.

Related Collections

Thirty (30) empty wood, metal, and plastic cigarette packs are also part of the Virgil Johnson Collection. They are housed with the Consumer Culture Collections in the Cultural History Division, which also holds several dozen cigarette packs from the Walter Landor/Landor Associates Industrial Design Collection (AC 500).

The Archives Center is nationally recognized as a site in which to pursue research into the history of tobacco advertising. The Warshaw Collection (AC 60) include many thousands of tobacco advertisements and cigar box labels from the 19th and 20th centuries; the Ayer Collection (AC 59) includes advertising proofsheets for American Tobacco, Phillip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and other cigarette and cigar manufacturers since the 1870s. The Marlboro Collection (AC 198) includes print ads, company publications, and oral history interviews with tobacco industry and advertising agency personnel. The Walter Landor/Landor Associates Industrial Design Collection (AC 500) includes documentation on package design for numerous tobacco companies since the 1950s, and the newly acquired Sandra and Gary Baden Collection of Celebrity Endorsements in Advertising (AC 611) contains several hundred ads featuring movie stars, singers, politicians, and athletes promoting tobacco products since the 1890s.

4,000 cigarettes, also donated by Mr. Johnson, each contained in a screw top glass vial, were donated to the Center for Disease Control's Office of Smoking and Health in Atlanta, Georgia.

Provenance

The collection was donated to the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History in July 1998, by Mr. Virgil Johnson, a resident of Alexandria, Virginia.

Container List

Box Folder
Series 1: CIGARETTE PACKAGES, ca. 1890-1997

Subseries 1: Foreign

1 1 Unknown Origins
2 Afghanistan
3 Algeria
4 Angola
5 Argentina
6 Aruba
7 Austria
2 1 Belgium
2 Bolivia
3-8 Brazil
9 Bulgaria
10 Burma
3 1 Cambodia
2 Canada
3 Ceylon
4 Chile
10 1-7 China
3 5 Columbia
6 Cuba
7 Czechoslovakia
8 Denmark
4 1 Ecuador
2 European Economic Community
3-7 Egypt
8 Finland
9 France
5 1-3 Germany
4 East Germany
5 Ghana
6 Gibraltar
11 unfoldered Great Britain
5 7 Greece
8 Grenada
9 Guatamala
6 1 Haiti
2 Honduras
3-4 Hong Kong
5 India
6-7 Indonesia
8 Iran
9 Ireland
10 Israel
11 Italy
7 1 Jamaica
2-4 Japan
5 Kenya
6 Korea
7 Libya
8 Lithuania
9 Luxembourg
10 Madagascar
11 Malaysia
12 Mexico
13 Moldova
14 Morocco
15 Nepal
16 Nigeria
17 Norway
18 Okinawa
19 Pakistan
20 Paraguay
21 Peru
22 Philippines
12 1-8 Poland
7 23 Portugal
24 Puerto Rico
8 unfoldered Romania
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
9 1 Taiwan
2 Thailand
3 Trinidad
4 Turkey
5 Ukraine
6 Union of South Africa
7 Venezuela
Series 1: CIGARETTE PACKAGES, ca. 1890-1997

Subseries 2: American

13 unfoldered American Tobacco Company
14 Benson & Hedges and Lorrilard
15 Brown & Williamson
16 Liggett and Myers
17 Philip Morris
18 R.J. Reynolds
19 Other manufacturers, A-M
20 Other manufacturers, N-Z
21 Generics
Series 1: CIGARETTE PACKAGES, ca. 1890-1997

Subseries 3: Index Cards

22 Foreign, arranged alphabetically by brand, A-K
23 Foreign, arranged alphabetically by brand, L-Z
24 American, arranged alphabetically by brand name
Series 2: ARTICLES AND OTHER PUBLICATIONS ABOUT TOBACCO AND TOBACCO COLLECTING, 1927-1994
25 1 The Brown and Williamson Story, n.d.
2 The Story of Lucky Strike: The Romance of Tobacco and the Exciting Story of Cigarette Manufacture, 1953
3 The Marlboro Story (advertisement), n.d.
4 Philip Morris Inc. Annual Report, 1983
5 Georgopoulo & Co. Manufacturers and Importers of Luxury Cigarettes since 1905, n.d.
6 Brochures: Danville, Virginia tobacco history sites, ca. 1984-1985
7 "North Carolina's Tobacco Heritage," The Tobacco Institute, n.d.
8 "Tobacco: Deeply Rooted in American's Heritage," the Tobacco Institute, n.d.
9 Newspaper clipping: "Cigarettes Named for Candidates [Eisenhower and Stevenson] Selling Furiously," 1952
10 Newspaper clipping: "Odd Cigarettes Included in Tolland Collection," 1953
11 Newspaper clipping: "Soviet Smokers Now Have Filters," NY Times, September 11, 1958
12 "Pack Art," Washington Post Magazine, November 8, 1991
13 Tobacco Advertising: The Great Seduction, 1996
14 "Light Up and Drink Up: Cigarette Makers," pp. 765-782, n.d.
15 Tobacco Products Permittee List, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Department of Treasury, 1977
16 "An Illustrated Listing of Generic, House Brand and Price--Competitive Cigarette Packs," 1984
17 Directory of Cigarette Brands, 1864-1988
18 "Cigarette Brands, 1927 - ," n.d.
19 Carl Clawsen, Jr.,The Cigarette Pack's Collectors Compendium: A Comprehensive Listing of U.S. Cigarette Merchants, Brand Names and Factory Numbers, June 1994
20 International Cigarette Manufacturer's Address List, n.d.
21 Revenue stamps [key]; "Cigarette Identifier" [foreign language key]; "Brands Manufactured in the United States" [key]
26 1-20 Brandstand: Viewing the World of Cigarette Collecting [newsletters of the Cigarette Pack Collectors Association], 1978, 1980-1998
21 CPCA Directory, 1983
Series 3: BOOKS ABOUT TOBACCO AND TOBACCO COLLECTING

Note: These titles have been transferred to NMAH Library

Dunhill, Alfred. The Gentle Art of Smoking. NY: Putnam, 1954.
Flanagan, Roy and Pat Flanagan Hooker. The Story of Lucky Strike, American Tobacco Co., 1953
Lewine, Harris. Good-bye To All That, n.d.
Wood, Neil. Smoking Collectibles: A Price Guide, Gas City, Indiana: L.W. Booksales, 1994
The American Tobacco Company. Sold American!": The First Fifty Years: 1904-1954, 1954
Heimann, Robert. Tobacco and Americans, McGraw Hill, 1960
Mullen, Chris. Cigarette Pack Art: A Unique Blend of Cigarette Pack Design, NY: St. Martins Press, 1979
Sobel, Robert. They Satisfy: The Cigarette in American Life. NY: Doubleday, 1978
Tilley, Nannie M. The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Caroline Press, 1985.

by: Mimi Minnick, July 1998
revised: Vanessa Broussard Simmons & Jennifer Snyder, January 2002

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E-mail: archivescenter@si.edu
Revised:  March 21, 2002