No matchbox required

Exhibitor : Phil Stringer

For many people matches are primarily associated with smoking and while the smoker was an important customer the need to create a flame used to be a household necessity, heating, lighting and cooking, even in quite recent times every home had a box of matches handy. When I would tell someone that I collected match items the frequent response was “But you don’t smoke” but like my childhood friends I collected what was free, many a discarded matchbox came from the gutter.

 

Matchette cigarette packet, 108 x 75 x 17 mm
Matchette cigarette packet, 108 x 75 x 17 mm

So what should a smoker do if he found himself without the means to light up? The Berkos Cigarette Co Ltd came up with what they considered a solution, “Matchette” cigarettes came with their own matches, flat wooden splints on a comb similar to those found in some continental bookmatches.

 

Matchette
Matchette

The company was registered in 1923 and the “Matchette” brand in 1926, marketed with the slogan “A matchless cigarette with matches” employing the dual meaning of the word match, a gimmick often seen in our hobby.

 

 

Deca self lighting cigarette, 83 x 76 x 18 mm
Deca self lighting cigarette, 83 x 76 x 18 mm

The “Deca” cigarette brand took the idea one step further by incorporating the igniting composition into the cigarette itself. Produced by the Autolight Cigarette Co in the 1960’s, it was not the first attempt to create a self lighting cigarette, this idea can be traced back at least as far as the 1920’s and as recently as 2014. Marketed with another dual meaning slogan “There is no match for a Deca” it almost did meet its match in the form of a legal battle over whether it should be charged the same excise duty as placed on matches. Because it smouldered rather than flamed the case was quashed.

Deca
Deca

 

Despite the obvious novelty of being able to show off in a crowd “look no match!” the brand never caught on, this could have been due to overwhelming competition from the established brands but was more likely due to poor performance.

 

Many who tried them at the time said that they often wouldn’t light and even if they did the cigarette would tear at the tip and end up bent or crumpled, some complained that they could taste sulphur from the igniting composition.

 

Self lighting cigarette papers, 85 x 47 x 18 mm
Self lighting cigarette papers, 85 x 47 x 18 mm

So if the stiff structure of a production cigarette couldn’t cope with the force required to light it then the idea of creating a self lighting cigarette paper would seem completely implausible: A French manufacturer, A Lejeune, didn’t think so. This packet doesn’t have the catchy wordplay promotion of the former examples shown here but does state that it only costs 15 cents and saves you having to pay 20 cents for matches.

 

Self lighting cigarette papers
Self lighting cigarette papers

There are written instructions and a pictorial diagram which advises not to have tobacco under the black striking edge and to support the end with the finger tips placing it on the red glass paper and rubbing vigorously. It contains what is described as superior healthy paper that will light in wind or rain, so it must be good for you!

 

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