Posts Tagged ‘Golden Emblem Rose’

One of our novel purchases from our first trip to London is a matted collection of Cigarette Rose Cards we found at the Portobello Market, London’s oldest street market.

While wandering around this huge antiques market one Saturday morning, we were amazed at the collection of antiques, vintage clothing, jewelry, artwork, food, ceramics, and books. Portobello Market stretches for 2 miles and, on a Saturday, streets are closed to make room for more than 1200 stalls that set up in the street and down small mews and alleys.

Portobello Market

It was down one of these mews that we discovered a stall selling antique artwork. Among the hundreds of offerings, Mike found a collection of small 1½” x 3” colorful, beautifully illustrated rose pictures. When we looked on the back of the collection, we discovered that these were Wills’s Cigarette Rose Cards issued by the Imperial Tobacco Co. of England and Ireland in the early 1900’s.

While we were familiar with baseball cards sold in the US that included a piece of bubble gum, we had never heard of collectible cards being enclosed with cigarettes. Evidently this practice began in the late 1800’s and were referred to as tobacco cards. The cards had a dual purpose: to stiffen the cigarette packages and to serve as a marketing device. The first Wills’s set appeared in 1895 with their series of “Ships and Soldiers.” This was followed with other themed cards such as sports and flowers. The rose collection had fifty cards and smokers were encouraged to collect the entire series. The advent of World War I and paper rationing led to the end of this practice in England.

Once the stallholder realized we were interested in cigarette cards with roses, he unearthed several more collections. The one we chose features roses introduced from as early as 1853 (Gloire de Dijon) to 1916 (Golden Emblem). What made these cards more interesting were the descriptions found on the backs of the cards which sometimes included growing tips. We recognized some of the breeders of these old roses, McGredy and Dickson for example, who had created and introduced many rose varieties well into the twentieth century.

After briefly haggling with the stallholder, an expected practice at street markets, Mike purchased the cigarette rose cards for 23£, down from the original 25£. We left, happy with our purchase and went on to enjoy the rest of Portobello Market.

We had the collection of Rose Cigarette Cards framed and it now hangs in our hallway where we can see it every day and remind us of the time we spent in London’s Portobello Market.

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