Century of Progress Cigars 1933
|Why It's Interesting|
The Century of Progress Exhibition celebrated Chicago’s hundredth birthday and was an effort to stir the spirits of Americans mired in the desperation that was ubiquitous at the trough of the Depression. It was this country’s first “modern” world’s fair, one that abandoned the grand classicism of the 1893 White City model in favor of streamlined art-deco moderne. Beyond the architectural transformation, however, and of even greater importance, was how this fair marked the rise of corporate sponsorship, as pavilions for businesses like Ford, Heinz, and Sears Roebuck supplemented the state and national buildings that traditionally dominated great expositions. This booklet was given out by White Owl’s corporate parent, the General Cigar Company. White Owl cigars would, along with Dutch Masters, continue to dominate the mass-market for cheap cigars right up until tobacco advertising disappeared from advertising, and thus mainstream awareness.
This website seeks to encourage researchers and collectors to discover and study obscure ephemera that document American culture and life. Worldcat reveals that most of the items that I post cannot be found in more than a few research libraries–often none at all. Alternately, research libraries do not bother to catalog ephemeral publications like these. I believe, however, that because these were distributed free, or at nominal cost, to consumers, they were the publications most likely to make their way into homes and be read by large numbers of Americans.
I acquire pre-1960 examples of the kinds of publications that prove so useful when scholars study 19th-Century America. The limited competition that I encounter for them suggests that libraries, which could easily outbid me, have little interest in post-Civil War and 20th-century ephemeral publications in general.
I try to anticipate what materials future historians will find useful. Being an historian first and a collector second, I organized this website to encourage others to do this too—even if this means new competition for me. I am aware that I could be wrong in prizing particular ephemera or even whole classes of ephemera. I may even be wrong to encourage scholars to study obscure ephemeral publications; these may be obscure for good reason.
Ephemerastudies.org will permit me to share with others the information and imagery that I am acquiring, and to benefit from the knowledge, intelligence and experience of other scholars and collectors. Please contact me with your impressions of the site.