Another Alma Mater Moment

By Kevin Grace

Following up on the 1935 postcard of the last days of UC’s original building in last week’s ARB blogs, here are a couple more ephemeral treasures.  In this age of various tobacco prohibitions in our culture, we’re a bit surprised when we chance upon the reminders of commonplace tobacco use from a century ago.  For most of its history, the UC community treated smoking as just another part of campus life.  In our not-so-distant past there were “butt huts” scattered around campus where smokers could stand sheltered from the rain and snow, but certainly not from the cold and gloom. And in the years before the huts, smoking was acceptable in offices and classrooms.  Decades ago there was even a facetiously-named “Nicotine Society” at the University of Cincinnati.

And, going much further back in our Bearcat heritage, the student newspapers, athletic programs, and even the yearbooks carried advertisements for cigarettes, cigars, and loose tobacco.  The purchase of tobacco or cigarettes in the early 20th century often provided the buyer with little souvenir premiums, rather like a prize in a Cracker Jack box.  The most notable of these tobacco inserts were, of course, baseball cards – long before the card packets were accompanied with a stick of stale chewing gum.  But tobacco companies also offered premiums of other sorts – actors and actresses, famous Indians, ships, and nearly everything else.

From around 1900 to World War I, several companies offered inserts that appealed to students of individual universities.  The two images here are of University of Cincinnati insert premiums, a small tobacco card and a tobacco silk.  The former is from the Murad Cigarette Company, measuring 2” by 2 1/2”, as part of their “College Series” that included Indiana University, the University of Chicago, West Virginia University, and dozens of others.  The silk, 2” x 3”, is from a packet of Egyptienne Luxury Cigarettes.  Small leather rectangles, similar to the silks, were also produced with college logos and seals.