Camera quality matchboxes

Exhibitor Alan Downer

A. Dellacha box (view showing the front of the matchbox)
A. Dellacha box (view showing the front of the matchbox)

This exhibit explores two interesting and rare Italian matchboxes presenting beautiful decorations on all sides. Each shows us their respective match factory on the back panel. We see the factory of A. Dellacha at Moncalieri near Turin (Northern Italy) on one box [Fig 1 – Fig 6], and L. Baschiera of Venice on the other [Fig 7 – Fig 13]. Each measures the same size 117x52x28mm approximately.

These are large boxes for use in the home, not in the pocket. The intricate artistic designs show us how fine the work of the artist was in the late 19th century, when these boxes were made, sometime after 1876 and most likely within about five years of this date.

A. Dellacha box (view showing the underside of the matchbox)
A. Dellacha box (view showing the underside of the matchbox)

We can see by the illustrations of the match factory that these were big factories. Baschiera has marked the box with the model reference “No.8” on one of the long side panel’s, and Dellacha has marked his box; “No.18”. Both boxes are also marked with the word; “Camera“, this is a reference to this style or model of box design.


The sliding match tray is furnished with a tab, for pulling out the match tray, cleverly punched and integral to the plain card used to make the match tray. We can see this most clearly in the photograph that shows the end of the match tray view on the Dellacha box. The end would have had a separate label pasted to it, which has gone missing from this box, but which we can see how it would have been fitted by looking at the Baschiera example. The match tray label measures 50mm wide and 26mm vertically. It folds over the top edge of the tray and then folds down into the inside of the tray end by 12mm.

A. Dellacha box (view showing a side elevation of the matchbox)
A. Dellacha box (view showing a side elevation of the matchbox)

These matchboxes are known to have been made by printing the design onto large paper sheets with multiple designs, which were then laminated onto a card backing, and lacquered (glassed) over the picture design. (Two Printer sheets, or more correctly part of two printer sheets, are also shown in this exhibit) They were then cut out, folded and pasted to form the finished matchbox outer, approximately 0.4mm thick. These outer boxes are made from two pieces, which fabricate together to make the matchbox outer.

The inner (match tray), made in one piece, was cut, folded and pasted from plain card boards approximately 0.3mm thick.

The printing technique or method used to print these matchboxes was chromolithography. Chromo means colour and the lithographic process is made up of lots of dots which can merge together to form stippling or blotchy patches in some spots.

The match label designs and the match tray end labels would have been printed on the same Printer’s sheet. The closed end of these matchboxes carried the match striking surface. On both of these boxes shown here is a small number printed in red ink, “157” on the Baschiera box and “168” on the Dellacha box. This is the print design reference. Below the view of the factory on the Baschiera box is printed; ‘Premiata fabbrica fiammiferi d’ogni qualita’ (Leading factory producing matches of all quality) and below this ‘Torino, Lit. Doyen.’ This is the mark of the lithographic Printer; Doyen of Turin. This panel, printed in black and red, forms the bottom part of the box. The beautiful colourful top and side panels were printed by another Printer. We know this because the top design has printed ‘LIT • ARMANINO • GENOVA’. This is the mark of the lithographic Printer, Armanino of Genova, which is the capital of Liguria and the sixth largest city in Italy today. The Dellacha box has printed below the view of the match factory; ‘STABILIMENTO DI AMBio DELLACHA IN MONCALIERI’ (Establishment of Ambrogio Dellacha in Moncalieri). The panel showing the factory view is printed in blue and does not show the name of the Printer. The beautiful colourful top and side panels again have the mark of Armanino. This mark is on the top main panel and is presented as; ‘GENOVA • LIT • ARMANINO •’. Also on the main top panel, below the picture of a woman washing a small naked boy in a water fountain, is the text; ‘UN BAGNO PER FORZA’ (A bath by force). The side panel with the mark of ‘A. DELLACHA’ illustrate two prize medals gained in ‘FILADELFIA’ (Philadelphia, U.S.A.) in 1876 and ‘VIENNA’ (Austria) in 1873.

Dellacha obtained another medal in “Milano in 1881” (Milan, Italy), and as this medal is not shown on this matchbox, it is more likely that the box was printed before that year.

Also included in the images is a plain paper mock-up of the two outer-box pieces, that illustrate the construction of the outer-box when fitted together.

Here are the images of the two Camera Quality boxes described in the text [Dellacha box Fig 1 – Fig 6] and [Baschiera box Fig 7 – Fig 13], the mock-up of the outer-box pieces [Fig 14], and two Printers sheets [Fig 15 and Fig 16]. click on an image to enlarge it.

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