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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

This Catalog of Matchbook Cover Designs Should Strike Your Fancy!

Front cover of the Match Corporation of
America Catalog & Price List
The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library in New York City recently acquired a promotional catalog issued by the Match Corporation of America that features sample designs for commercial advertisements printed on matchbook covers. The catalog, copyrighted in 1958, is billed as "the light way to profitable advertising." There are over 180 pages of color and black-and-white images, advertising everything from restaurants and bars to gas stations and political campaigns. The volume includes numerous samples of matchbook covers (without the matches, of course!). Browsing through the pages, you're catapulted mentally back into the days when a pack of cigarettes could be found in many Americans' pockets. For business owners, these simple little cardboard folders offered a big opportunity to advertise their services and build a bit of customer loyalty by supplying their patrons with the small, practical gift of a few matches.

Stock designs for match covers advertising
bars and restaurants

The catalog includes examples of standard matchbook sizes, ranging from 10 to 240 stems. Advertisers could use the hundreds of stock illustrations provided by the catalog, or commission a custom design for a special event. The lively graphic designs and snappy short texts ranging from utilitarian to mildly salacious attest to the visual appeal of commercial advertisements aimed at the American public during the boom years that followed World War II.

Stock designs for match covers
advertising political candidates

Diane Shaw, Special Collections Cataloger
Smithsonian Libraries

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