Collection

Ruskin Cigar Box

Collection: Branded

Category: Ceramics Furniture Wood and metal

Date: Circa 1920s

Designer: Lewis Cigar Co.

Nationality of Designer: American

Manufacturer: Lewis Cigar Co.

Manufacturers Location: Newark, New Jersey (U.S.A)

Material: Cardboard and paper

Dimensions: Length 23 cm x Height 6 cm x Width 14.5 cm

Purchase Price: £2.00

Abstract:

'John Ruskin' branded Cigar Box

Provenance:

It is what it is

Personal history/nominator:

Bought on eBay from the USA as a piece of Ruskin branding by Adam Sutherland.

Adaptions/renovations:

None - battered condition

Why it's in the Collection:

Ruskin has a large number of branded goods to his name, on the whole he had nothing at all to do with them, from cigars, to pottery to Laura Ashley patterns, his name and image were used to promote product he and his ideals explicitly abhorred.

In the early 20th century, tobacco companies often used the names of well-known writers and critics such as Ruskin, Hemingway and Kipling to endorse their cigars. They played on the idea that tobacco was a muse for creativity; one advertisement states that the cigars will, "recall your thoughtfulness with every delightful puff".

John Ruskin was almost alone among nineteenth-century English writers in his opposition to tobacco (he thought it a corrupter of youth morals), but still appreciated enough its appeal to his muse Thomas Carlyle sending him a box of good cigars as a token of friendship. However, that didn't stop Ruskin trying to keep Carlyle out of his garden at Brantwood.

"But there was one insuperable obstacle: the smoking. For his sake, I would have borne the forms of American frankincense obtained by the combination of tobacco with lilac blossoms or laburnum; but I could not stand the spitting. The entire service of the gardens, to me, depended on the perfect cleanliness of its ground, so that I could always lie down either on the gravel walks, the lawns or the dry flowerbeds, with no more harm than some dust on my coat…" John Ruskin

About the Designer/Maker:

The box bears an idealized portrait of Ruskin surrounded on one side by puti bearing a heraldic shield and on the other by a Britannia like figure hold aloft a wreath and cradling a phallic sealed scroll - maybe the declaration of independence. The top of the box bears the coat of arms of the British Royal family and the words John Ruskin, best and biggest - it seems likely the whole confection is just a random amalgam of images and pseudo endorsements, it being unlikely that Ruskin or the Royal family would endorse a cigar manufacture in Newark.

The brand also extended its reach with an advert depicting a cowboy galloping down the high street to pick up a box of Ruskin Cigars sitting on the ground.

About the Manufacturer:

Little information available, based in Newark and bringing tobacco in from Alabama, choosing Ruskin as a brand, a man that had publicly declared his dislike of tobacco, purloining the British monarchies coat of arms, advertising cigars as aids to thought and health, the list goes on as to why things might have gone wrong for the company.

Bibliography & Further information

The Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin, Ed. George Cate, Stanford University Press, 1982, ISBN-10: 0804711143

Adverts promoting Ruskin Cigars

Another...

Carlyle Letters to Ruskin