Lucky Strikes, named so after the Gold Rush, began as a brand for chewing tobacco and evolved from there into one of the top selling cigarette brands of the 1930s partially due to their focus on a female audience. It is estimated that only 4 out of every 1,000 diggers would ever actually strike gold, and so Lucky Strike used this vision to set themselves apart in a saturated cigarette market—the cigarette name evoked a sense of rarity— that the men who smoked the brand would become enviable and wealthy.

Many cigarette companies had tried to appeal to a female audience in the 1910s and ‘20s, though the response was lackluster. Women were hesitant to smoke—it was socially unacceptable at the time, deemed only a man’s hobby, and so tobacco companies carefully tried to persuade the general public’s view to include women. In these early advertisements, women were shown holding open cigarette boxes (never smoking them), or, in the case of a 1925 Chesterfield ad, were seen watching a man smoke with the slogan “Blow Some My Way.” One Camel advertisement from 1928 shows a woman surrounded by two men, she is not holding a cigarette (the two men are), but the slogan reads, “Personally, I Smoke for Pleasure,” implying that she is the one who is speaking.

Advertisements were gentle about the topic, but in 1929, Lucky Strike schemed to create an advertising campaign that would link female smokers with the Emancipation Movement, and they were very forthcoming about it.

The American Tobacco Company hired Edward Bernays, a successful marketer, to take on the challenge. Bernays hired ten models, and for the 1929 New York Easter Parade, dressed each of them up as a Statue of Liberty, and held cigarettes up in their hands as torches. The parade was heavily promoted in the nation’s newspapers, and seen by millions. The U.S. Tobacco Journal states that 5% of all smokers were women in 1924, 13% in 1928, and 40% by 1950.

Lucky Strike went on to create what is considered one of the most famous slogans in all of advertising history— “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet,” reminding women of the slimming benefits of tobacco smoking, and why a cigarette should be chosen first over a piece of candy. This advertising technique would be widely used when marketing cigarettes toward women until the end of the 20th century.

The decade following World War II was the biggest for the tobacco industry. Americans smoked more than they ever had before and ever have since. Cigarettes were included in soldier kits overseas, and back home people were supporting their troops and more than happy to support the purveyors of their cigarettes. In the case of Lucky Strike, a successful advertising campaign ran that swapped out the normally green label for a white one. The brand stated that the green label had “gone to war,” because the copper used to make the green label was needed for WWII—this, in reality, was actually just a tactic to appeal to a broader female audience—market studies had shown that the green wasn’t as attractive to females as the white. The ingredient used to make the green dye was actually chromium, and not copper, but Lucky Strike doctored this up a bit by presumably aiding in the war effort. Their famous slogan at the time was “L. S. M. F. T.” or “Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco.” The initials were used as a way to mimic Morse Code.

We carry cigarette advertisements up until the early 1970s, when health authorities worldwide warned of the side effects of smoking. It is interesting following our group of Tobacciana ads in chronological order, watching how women move from the background and into the foreground. 

Collection Image Back Story - This image comes from an original 1938 illustrated ad showing Joan Crawford delivery Lucky Strike as a holiday gift. You can find the original ad here.

Image reference: The billboard image shown at the top of this post was captured high resolution from a 1925 original lithograph obtained by Period Paper depicting early Lucky Strike billboard advertising.

Lucky Strike Advertising Collection

Bull Durham cigarettes of North Carolina were the first nationally recognized tobacco company, but Camel took the lead in popularity in 1913 with a viral advertising campaign, considered the gateway of modern advertising.

First, the R. J. Reynolds company needed to come up with a brand that would set itself apart in the saturated tobacco market. Most of the brands of the time used a Turkish tobacco blend. Advertisements of the era generally included Oriental and exotic imagery to exude something fascinating, rare, and extraordinary, hence, the logo of Camel cigarettes.

The first drawing of the camel was very cartoonish, but when the Barnum and Bailey Circus came to town in Winston, North Carolina, where the R. J. Reynolds company was stationed, a photographer went and took a photo of a one-humped camel named Old Joe. The smug looking creature was perfect for the label of the cigarette packaging.

The R. J. Reynolds company ran an advertisement campaign with their agency N. W. Ayer, with Old Joe camel and the slogan, “The Camels are Coming!” (An interesting allusion to the Book of Genesis, though we are unsure if this was a strategic one or just a coincidence). There was no mention of tobacco, nor cigarettes, nor any product whatsoever in the printed ads. Then, on the fourth day of the campaign, it was announced that Camels were a new brand of cigarette. There was a huge outpouring of support and interest from the public, and by 1915, Camel became the top-selling cigarette brand in the United States.

Camel Collection

Reference: Both billboard images shown here were captured high resolution from 1925 original lithographs obtained by Period Paper depicting early Camel billboard advertising.

When looking at historical bicycle advertisements, not only are we seeing the development of the modern-day bike from velocipede to the safety, but we are also seeing the progression of feminism, as women recognize their freedom and find the bicycle to embody their independence. Although a seemingly strange medium, this transformation of the modern-day woman is discernible through the history of bicycle advertisements.

The oldest form of bicycle was the velocipede, or draisine, a contraption invented in 1817 by Baron Karl von Drais. It was made almost completely out of wood, weighed 48 pounds, and was foot propelled. Although rare, we sometimes carry velocipede advertisements, but, due to their scarcity, they are often snatched up almost immediately. By the 1860s, pedals had been attached to the front wheel of the velocipede, and was, in the vernacular, known as “the boneshaker” -- an obvious implication to the user’s experience on the rigid framed bicycles on the cobblestone streets of the day.

Next came the high-wheel bicycles, or the penny-farthings, of the 1870s. They featured a tall front wheel, the “penny”, and a small rear wheel, the “farthing”. These high speed bicycles were extremely dangerous. Often, riders would break both wrists while trying to break their fall (their legs often got trapped beneath the handlebars), so riding was reserved for bold young men and the well-to-do as an example of social status. 

Then, in the 1880s and 1890s came the Safety Bicycle, invented by John Kemp Starley. The Safety Bicycle changed everything. As the name suggests, the bicycle was much more reliable and secure, and became a mode of transportation for not only the wealthy, but for the common people. And so begun the bicycle craze. In 1897 alone, over 2 million bikes were sold in the United States. Women began to challenge Victorian ideals, and since the restrictive dress of the corset and hoop skirt was inhibiting on a bicycle, the New Woman opted for more freeing and loose clothing. This New Woman can often be seen in the advertisements of the day, and represent the changing norms of society.

Susan B. Anthony said on the subject, “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

Bicycles Collection