Metacards and the Tobacco Set of Tobacco

About a year ago I wrote about a silly idea which I called Metacards. In short the idea is cards which describe themselves. There’s not much I have to add to that original post except to note that I’ve sort of gone off and started a metacard mini collection.

It’s still very much a mini PC. I’ve got a Bowman Bowman, Post Post, Phillie Philley, and mini Minnie. There’s a Rookie rookie in my 2017 Update set but I haven’t gotten an extra. Nor have I grabbed the Padres Podres or any other cards mentioned in that post.

I did however recently pick up a set of 1926 Player’s Cigarettes “From Plantation to Smoker” cards which, as the tobacco card set of tobacco cards fits perfectly with this theme.

It’s a small set of 25 cards which details the entire process from growing tobacco all the way to making cigarettes. In many ways it’s also a great fit with the Liebig printing cards in that it’s not just a joke of a meta card, it’s an actual meta card that’s commenting on itself—in this case not the card production but the product which it’s packaged with.

The artwork is pretty interesting with detailed images of the tobacco farm and fields. This is a 1926 set but you very much get a sense that tobacco production still relies on a lot of Black labor for the benefit of white planters. The farm house is clearly an estate while all the farmworkers except the supervisor are non-white.

The backs of the cards make it clear that this set is about the product and how carefully cultivated it is. Which makes sense for something being actually packaged with cigarettes. How delicate the plants are. How they need to be protected. How they’re picked by hand repeatedly so that every leaf has been selected for maximum ripeness.

Not exactly an advertising campaign yet clearly operating in the same world that spawned “It’s Toasted.” This is Player’s making sure its customers know that they’re getting a quality product as well as framing certain production methods as the “best” way.

The set goes on to depict the rest of the supply chain as tobacco is delivered to market, sold, processed, shipped overseas, and turned into cigarettes. I like how huge the warehouses and factories look with vanishing points that make them seem almost endless. There’s also a a sense of increased activity in many of these when compared to the farming images.

A more interesting mix of backs here. The description of the seas voyage in particular continues the emphasis on quality in how it describes how safe they have to keep the leaves on the journey.

It is however worth comparing the Hand Stemming Room with Cigarette Machine Room. The Hand Stemming back talks about “experienced white foremen” who oversee the colored labor gets a bit of side-eye from me when it describes the happy singing workforce. Meanwhile the cigarette machines are run by “highly skilled” girls. Despite how the majority of the labor depicted in this set is performed by Black hands, the finishing final touches are by English girls and yeah that feels as intentional as all the emphasis on the care and selection of the leaves.

All in all a very interesting set which also made me stop and think about how I never thought about where all the tobacco came from. As I think back about my education, tobacco farming never came up after the Civil War. It clearly continued in North Carolina and Virginia since it’s still grown in both states today but for whatever reason I wasn’t expecting to see Virginia tobacco be such an important selling point in the UK.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

4 thoughts on “Metacards and the Tobacco Set of Tobacco”

  1. Love the idea for a “meta” mini-collection. I have a Post Post and a Bowman Bowman, but I never thought to look for a Mini Minnie. Also I think there was a prospect named Rookie Davis a few years back – gotta be a Rookie Rookie out there somewhere!

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