The Eight Immortals of Henry Waugh & Co

Henry Waugh & Co matchbox label from 1950s (148 X 194 mm)

Exhibitor : Badrul Hisham Jaafar

This unique Henry Waugh & Co Ltd’s advertisement match label featuring the eight immortals has been known as a match label of the 1950s period and regarded as one of the most beautiful yet elusive labels from this part of the world. It is one of my personal favourites and treasured collection which took me many years to secure. Luck must have played a big part for me in getting this label. It’s a large colourful match package label despite some frailty at the edges. For the love of Phillumeny, it’s worthy in my humble opinion to share this colourful label with others.

Henry Waugh and his company

Henry Waugh & Co Ltd was a British trading house and sole agent that imported consumer goods ranging from cigarettes to canned soup in early 1900s until 1950s to the region (Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand). The company was incorporated in Singapore on 14 December 1901 with its registered address at 204, Cantonment Road while it was incorporated in Malaysia (then Malaya) on 31 July 1904. The founder, Mr. Henry Waugh was a resident of Penang for many years and was a famous businessman in Malaya.

Some Katz Brothers labels, early 1900s

Henry came to Malaya in 1897 and became a Director of Katz Brothers & Co in Penang which was also involved in match trading. Henry subsequently acquired Katz Brothers & Co in 1928 to be part of Henry Waugh & Co. He was said to be involved in many other businesses in Malaya ranging from owning several tin mines in Taiping, Perak and Selangor as well as rubber estates in Kedah.

Henry passed away on 6 March 1934 at Standon Court, Tunbridge Wells, England at the age of 58 (source: The Straits Times, 8 March 1934).

The thriving business of Henry Waugh & Co was eventually acquired by the far east conglomerate Jardine Matheson & Co Ltd in 1954.

Henry Waugh (Malaya) Ltd shop as it currently stands at the heritage zone (in the UNESCO world heritage site) at Bandar Hilir, Melaka, Malaysia

The Eight Immortals

The beautiful advertisement match label of Henry Waugh & Co depicting a Chinese painting of the legendary Eight Immortals enjoying a game of “mahjong” together with two servants. Two red-crowned crane birds are seen at the left bottom of the picture with picturesque background of highland cliffs, trees and large houses or palaces.  The company’s business city branches: Bangkok, Singapore, Penang, Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur are stated at each side and at the base of the label. A similar advertisement label is also available in the collection of the National Museum of Singapore. (source:

The 8 immortals are said to have supernatural powers. They are: 

  1. He Xiangu, the only woman in the group who normally carries a lotus flower
  2. Cao Guojiu, a royal uncle (emperor) who holds a jade tablet
  3. Li Tieguai, a beggar (a bit unsound mind) with an iron crutch and a gourd
  4. Lan Caihe, a young musician with a bamboo basket
  5. Lu Dongbin, a scholar, a poet, and a swordsman with a magic sword
  6. Han Xiangzi, a philosopher and a flutist with a jade flute
  7. Zhang Guolao, an elder knowledgeable master with a paper donkey and a drum (associated with symbol of longevity) 
  8. Zhongli Quan, a general with a fan and a peach

Try to spot them all in the advertisement label if you can.

In Chinese mythology, the Eight Immortals are considered to be signs of prosperity and longevity; hence, it’s fitting to be displayed and shared herein. May BML&BS (our match label club society) and all its members prosper and live long as well. Cheers.

References & resources: 

  2. SGP business
  3. Experian
  4. History of Jardine Matheson & Co
  5. Katz Street
  6. 711collectionstore

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