The tigers of Malaya

Exhibitor : Badrul Hisham Jaafar

This exhibit focuses on the Tiger theme of match labels manufactured or used in the Federated Malay States, Malaya and Sarawak (all part of Malaysia). It is reported by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) group that the Malayan Tigers are so endangered with less than 300 Malayan Tigers in the world of which only about 200 left in the wild. Let’s save our beautiful endangered tigers while enjoying the artistic match label designs of yesteryears.

Red Tiger matchbox label, 50 x 35 mm
Red Tiger matchbox label, 50 x 35 mm

The red coloured tiger label on the right is reputed as the first ever locally manufactured match brand of 1922 by the Malayan Matches Ltd of Selangor in the Federated Malay States (FMS). Prior to this all matches in Malaya were imported by local traders, particularly from Sweden, Great Britain, Japan, China and others. The tiger image has similar resemblance to that of a Malaya postage stamp. After enquiring, I realised that it was a matchbox label but unfortunately it was not for sale – it was the shop owner’s favourite and he was keeping it for himself. Some things, money just could not buy. To be honest, I didn’t dare to make an offer anyway. To me that’s an example of real love; an attachment.

That fateful event was the start of my eventual journey into phillumeny. After some years, I managed to acquire this beautiful red tiger label from a French collector. The rest, as they say, is history.

Tiger Head, 35 x 54 mm
Tiger Head, 35 x 54 mm
Two Tigers, 35 x 54 mm
Two Tigers, 35 x 54 mm

Tiger is a famous and important theme for Malaya. Evidently, it was used as a brand to symbolise courage and strength.

In 1933, Kelantan Match Factory (KMF) was established and interestingly, the company, still produces matches in Kota Bahru, Kelantan till this very day.

It has a reputation as one of the most prolific and famous local match manufacturers. Tiger Head and Two Tigers are two of KMF’s brands, more are shown in the gallery below. Various other tiger labels from KMF and variants do exist.

Tiger, 54 x 35 mm
Tiger, 54 x 35 mm

 

Back in the old days, rumours were rampant that Britain’s Bryant & May was considering a manufacturing set up in Perak, Malaya to take advantage of the abundance of wood and the new hydro-electric infrastructure. The rumours remain unrealised.

Instead, in 1936, the Perak Match Factory (PMF) was established. Their early label designs are quite similar to Kelantan’s KMF as they share common shareholders. 

In late 1940s, Sarawak Match Factory was established in East Malaysia but ceased operation sometime in the mid-1960s. 

Tiger Brand, imported, 55 x 35 mm and 90 x 68 mm
Tiger Brand, imported, 55 x 35 mm and 90 x 68 mm

 

Imported matches were also in abundance and Penang’s Lam Tong is one such fine example. The matches were imported from Hong Kong.

Tiger Beer label, 57 x 36 mm
Tiger Beer label, 57 x 36 mm

 

 

The tiger is considered an iconic brand for various products. One particular example is the Tiger Beer. On the right is a matchbox advert for Tiger Beer by Fraser & Neave Distributors (F&N) branded locally as Chop Rimau (the word “Chop” means brand while “Rimau” a shorten form of “Harimau” or Tiger in Malay language).

Some more Tiger labels are shown below, click on an image to enlarge it.

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