1926 Player’s Cigarettes Straight Line Caricatures

This post is about a set of cards I got way back in the beginning of March and totally forgot to blog about. Sometimes I’ve put a post off because it’s a lot of work. This time I actually thought I’d already scanned and written about the set and wasted way too much time driving myself crazy by searching my blog for the post.

Anyway, Player’s Cigarettes Straight Line Caricatures set from 1926 is one I had been eyeballing for a long time. A lot of the caricatures sets are either too cartoony or feature no one on the checklist who I recognize but this one has striking art and a decent checklist of prominent men in the British Isles.*

*“British Isles” used purposely as I’ll mention later. As is “men” since no women made it into the checklist. There is however one non-white guy as The Aga Khan is included.

I’m not scanning all the cards and instead am just grabbing a nice gallery of recognizable names to give a flavor of the set. Charlie Chaplin is probably the most exciting card due to his fame and how excellent his iconic look works with the art style.  But it’s fun to see authors like J.M. Barrie and Rudyard Kipling as well.

Churchhill and Marconi are obviously big names. In 1926 Churchill has yet to become famous for what most of us know him for while Marconi is 30 years past demonstrating his wireless telegraph and has gone full fascist.

Jack Hobbs is one of the few sportsmen in the set and is probably the best choice for this time period in British sport. I don’t know much about Cricket but certain names have made their way into my consciousness and Hobbs is one of them.

Like Marconi, Douglas Fairbanks is one of the few subjects who isn’t from the British Isles. But in 1926 he was on of the biggest movie stars around.

Finally the G.B. Shaw card is why I say “British Isles” since 1926 places this set after Irish independence and there are a decent number of cards that feature Irish statesmen or artists and even mention the settlement of the “Irish question.” Shaw is another card with artwork that I really enjoy but he’s also written some of my favorite plays.

The backs are generally positive descriptions of the subjects which omit a ton of specific highlights from their careers. No mention of Chaplin having just released The Gold Rush* in 1925 or Fairbanks and The Sheik in 1924. Shaw winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 isn’t mentioned nor are the titles of any of his plays. None of Kipling’s books are named though I do love the last line of the card about how “the British Empire is his world and Imperialism his religion.” The only work which is named is Peter Pan on Barrie’s card and that’s used in a way that assumes that you’ll understand the reference.

*Not at all surprised at no mention of the Lita Grey scandal.

This trend is consistent with the other cards as well. Zero description of Hobbs’s performances in any specific matches or setting the record for first class 100s. Lots about Churchill’s personality but, aside from a vague reference to him as a turncoat which could be referring to either or both times he switched parties, nothing about his politics.

Marconi is one of the few who has a specific achievement mentioned and dated. This makes me wonder if he was perhaps less well known at the time and the cardmakers thought that they had to name him as the inventor of the wireless telegraph in order to justify his placement in the set.

One of the most interesting things about this set though is how it captures a moment in time right before everything was about to change. Talkies were about to take over Hollywood and while Chaplin has his greatest movies ahead of him, Fairbanks career was about to basically end. In Europe, fascism and the rise of the Nazis were on the horizon and Marconi would go a very different direction here compared to Kipling and Churchill.

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

3 thoughts on “1926 Player’s Cigarettes Straight Line Caricatures”

  1. I’m not a big fan of caricatures in general, but you’re right, these don’t look too bad. The solid checklist doesn’t hurt either.

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