Blue Cross brand, made in England

Blue Cross packet label from Nitedals in Norway, 98 x 71 mm

Exhibitor : Pat Stevens

Blue Cross is one of the most well known brands of matchboxes in the UK. This is mainly because in the 1960s and 70s many Blue Cross boxes and skillets were imported and it became all pervasive on the supermarket and tobacconist’s shelves. 

Three brands, then one

At the beginning of the 20th century three brands were being imported into the UK from the Nitedals factory in Norway : Blue Cross, Red Cross and White Cross. Matches were first manufactured in Norway in 1838, and the Nitedal factory was established in 1863.

However, by 1915 only Blue Cross was produced. Over the following years the brand became very well established and had several different nationwide promotion campaigns. 

This meant that all Blue Cross labels say “Made in Norway” – or so I thought !

You can therefore imagine my surprise when, as a young collector in the 1960s, I discovered a Blue Cross label which said “Made in England”. I couldn’t believe it, and decided to write to the company to find out more. This was in the days of writing letters by hand and posting them in a red letterbox.

The only two Blue Cross matchbox labels from England, made during WWII by J John Masters in London

Blue Cross comes to England

I received a lovely personal letter from the managing director of the importers confirming that the labels were completely genuine and explaining the circumstances in which they were produced. He told me :

  • During the second world war the production of matches in the UK was government controlled and all imports were stopped
  • Under this legislation the J John Masters factory in Barking, near London, produced two runs of Blue Cross labels in order to keep the brand alive, and both these labels say “Made in England”

I was thrilled to learn about this fascinating piece of matchbox history, and it spurred me on to continue collecting and researching. Of course. these two Blue Cross labels will always have a special place in my collection.

J John Masters stopped trading in 1975, and in 1981 Nitedals Match Co. stopped trading in London with Blue Cross imported from Sweden for a few years before stopping altogether.

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