What’s In The Lab: Duke Tobacco Cards

By Erin Hammeke, Senior Conservator

Tobacco card album.
Tobacco card album.

I’ve just finished the most challenging and enjoyable treatment of the year for me: a ledger book from the 1880’s that was later repurposed as a scrapbook for a Duke Tobacco card collection. The collectors cards were included in packs of Duke Tobacco and most of this collection appears to date to the late 19th Century. The cards were issued in various topical series: international costumes, historical figures, great ships, flags, and writers, among others. They range in physical format, from chromolithographs, to tiny booklets and even albumen photographic prints.

The most interesting thing to me about the cards are the different portrayals of women. There are cartoonish representations of women fishing, colorful illustrations of women bicycling and exercising, and of course some early pin-up type photographs of actresses and performers of the era. Look for this album and other Duke and Sons Tobacco materials in an upcoming Duke University Libraries Digital Collection. Here are some of my favorite pages.

Smoke rings.
Women on bikes.
Women on bikes.

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3 thoughts on “What’s In The Lab: Duke Tobacco Cards”

  1. I am an aspiring art conservationist and was wondering if you ever gave tours of your lab? I am so interested in how this was worked on. Any information would be wonderful! I do not live far from the area and would love to see.

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