Cigarettes and brown cases…


Yesterday, I found a suitcase in Mum’s cupboards. It’s a lovely 1940’s suitcase – solid, in perfect condition and very, very brown…

It was also heavy when we found it – the kind of heavy that implies books and so my heartbeat lifted a notch.


I opened the case to look inside – albums, boxes and papers!


My kind of ‘contents’. My kind of night too, as I investigated one album after another, one box after another.


It seems that Dad had begun collecting cigarette cards from the age of nine (his father was a pipe and cigar smoker).


The subject matter was vast…





English scenes…


the monarchy…


(Richard Lionheart doesn’t look as handsome as other images portray)


Dad’s beloved planes (his first ever flight in the Air Training Corp was in a Tiger Moth),



military regalia…


school badges, cars, dogs…


Sadly from an archival storage point of view, Dad placed some cards in the popular adhesive albums of the 70’s. They’re now irredeemably stuck and I can’t remove them to store in acid-free boxes and tissue without destroying the cards. I shall just have to enjoy them whilst they are viable.


Right at the very bottom of the case were two fascinating pieces of paper. One was an indenture, beautifully written in pen and ink and dated 1860’s whereby my Wallace ancestor was apprenticed as a carpenter. My own son is now a carpenter and we now know that carpenter/joiners existed on both sides of the family tree.


The other was a newspaper cutting from 1966, which mentions an historic inn in fledgling Hobart in the 1820’s belonging to an ancestor, Richard Wallace. I never knew!

I think I must have seen some of the albums and cards very early in my life and forgotten about them, because the historic subject matter just sang to me and I wonder if that is how my love of history began.

I cherish what I’ve found. In its own way it’s not just visual history, but social history as well. This is the kind of thing that children born in the 1920’s did to pass the time on bad weather days. So much better perhaps, than playing computer games?


One thing though – this marvellous collection of cards came directly from cigarette companies like Wills and Players. Both Mum and Dad died from smoking induced diseases – Mum from strokes and Dad from emphysema.

Bitter irony, isn’t it?