NOW IT’S SOCIAL HISTORY

Leave anything for long enough and it becomes social history. For no discernable reason I collected matchbox labels in my youth and then I forgot about them. I rediscovered them recently and realised they said something about their time. SEITA, the French state tobacco company that made Gauloises, now part of Imperial Tobacco, issued several series of traditional regional costumes, which must have all disappeared by now. This series (above) was the earliest, the classic, nicely printed in three flat colours.

Matchboxes challenged graphic artists to design in a couple of square inches. These (above) advertised Lyons’ cheap, ubiquitous Corner Houses.

These (above) come from Sivakasi the centre of the Indian match industry. There are dozens of factories in Sivakasi, each producing dozens of brands, once made with these charming misaligned labels. Few have websites but those that do, like Bilal Safety Matches (below), are indifferent to their old products, sombre and practical with an emphasis on the scale of their operations.

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