1938 Wills Cigarettes Speed

One of the first pre-war sets I got was the 1938 Churchman’s Kings of Speed. It’s a fun set which captures a moment in time as it relates to how fast humans can travel. While much of the Churchman’s set involves athletes, there are also a decent number of drivers and pilots as well. Meanwhile there’s a great companion set, also from 1938, which has the exact same theme but features the planes, trains, and automobiles instead of the men who drove them.

This set is from Will’s cigarettes and is just named “Speed.” It’s got a lot of great artwork and is catnip for anyone who likes the look of 1930s industrial design as applied to transportation.* I like the way the vehicles are depicted in their environments and especially like the wide-angle view that shows up in the Mormon Meteor and Super Chief cards.

*Sadly no 20th Century Limited or Coast Daylight card though.

With a lot of the cards there’s not just the sense that the subject is moving fast, it’s also incredibly powerful to the point that it threatens to burst out of the card frame. There are a bunch of great-looking images (though I’m partial to the trains) but I only chose eight which show the breadth of the set coverage.

As an American the Santa Fe card is particularly great because it’s also one of the entry-level Bachmann Trains sets. A lot of the vehicles in the set look pretty dated but the Santa Fe engine is one I’ve been familiar with my entire life.

The backs tend to be very technical in how they include both under-the-hood information as well as streamlining details. I don’t have much to comment on besides to note that the Amtrak still operates the Chief and Zephyr lines. The Chief is much the same (though is 40+ hours instead of ~39) while the Zephyr now extends past Denver to California.

Definitely a fun set to have in the binder right after the Carreras Famous Airmen and Airwomen and I’m glad I picked it up at the end of last year.

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 “1938 Wills Cigarettes Speed”

  1. Your tobacco card collection is almost as impressive as your custom card collection. By the way… I have my thank you post for the 1936 Carrera Famous Airmen & Airwomen customs you sent me schedule to publish Thursday afternoon. Thanks in advance.

  2. I would’ve liked to live during the time when people were always trying to break speed records. It may seem quaint to modern ears, but I’d much rather celebrate people for this sort of pursuit, than a lot of the pursuits that people are celebrated for today.

    1. Yeah the way that the pre-war tobacco sets serve as a way of documenting the state of human physical achievement at that moment in time is one of the things I like most about them. I’m not even sure how you could do something similar today.

  3. Oh man, I’ve seen several of these before. The artwork is great. I had an N scale as a kid, the Super Chief was one of the first engines I bought. Well, my dad bought for me. There used to be a big model train show at the convention center once or twice a year. Was always a fun day, looking for engines and cars and seeing everyone’s layouts.

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