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Lucky Strike

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 looking on desirably as men lit up. 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.

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.