Matchbook Cover Art

As you may have seen in my previous coverage of vintage matchook art, there's some interesting art to be found on matchbook covers from all different time periods. In addition to the link above, I had another selection of vintage matchbooks shared here from my grandfather's collection, and now I'm moving on to some of the matchbooks that I started collecting in the 1980s.

I think this is a good one to start with, since it has an explanation of the history of matchbooks, or - as they have printed on the front, "How It Began: The Book Match."

Diamond Match Co matchbook cover with a history of matchbooks described on the back

This sample is from the Diamond Match Co. in Springfield, Massachusetts, which traces its history back to the 1850s, according to this article. The front shows two guys seemingly shocked at the idea that their friend can light up his cigar with something that they're suggesting was quite novel at the time. The back side reads: "The first book matches were introduced in the 1880's (Diamond Match made the first advertising book match in 1889). An improved type (basically the same version in use today) was patented in 1892, sold to Diamond in 1894, and was first produced in 1896."

I don't have a whole lot of rhyme or reason as to why I selected this first group of matchbook covers from my collection, other than the fact that they all had something interesting visually about them that caused me to pull them out of the shoebox where I have them stored. Let's look at the first pair: "Snoboy" features a little snowman with red earmuffs who is carrying a bright red apple. It's a bit of a contradiction, since the front side mentions "fresh fruits and vegetables," but the back side shows that these are advertising Standby Canned Foods.

The next matchbook is for Travel Lodge, and what I like is the silhouette of the kid on the front with the slogan to "keep out of children's reach." The way the silhouette is positioned, the kid's arm is reaching out - is he reaching for the matches? Or - since he's staying at Travel Lodge, and he appears to have a "night cap" on, is the kid sleepwalking? I find these mysterious options for interpretation to be a bit amusing.

Snoboy Matchbook cover art with a snowman holding an apple

Travel Lodge matchbook cover art with a sleepwalking kid in a night cap

For the next pair of matchbook covers, let's look at some service businesses and how they want to advertise with their matchbook art. First we have a matchbook by Pennhurst Cleaners in Minnesota, which has an illustration serving as a ironic or contradictory message: the owner is sitting at his desk surrounded by laundry, and the message is "Don't bring your dry cleaning to Pennhurst, we're too busy!" But hey - take this matchbook home with you, so that you'll remember to use us the next time you want something dry-cleaned.

Next we have a matchbook for Richfield Plumbing Co., also in Minnesota. What I find curious here is the photograph on the back: either this woman has a massive bathroom with a separate plant-filled alcove, or her bathroom is right off of the living room with no door for privacy! What exactly is going on here?

Matchbook cover art for Pennhurst Cleaners in Minnesota

Richfield Plumbing Co Matchbook cover art with a bathroom with bidet

The next pair of matchbooks includes one picked up on a family vacation when I was a little kid: it came from the "Noah's Ark Restaurant" in St. Charles, Missouri. While it's just an illustration here on this matchbook, and perhaps a bit hard to imagine, there really was a restaurant in the shape of a huge ark! It closed in 2000, and was demolished in 2007.

The next matchbook cover just grabbed my attention due to the bright red color and floral designs on both sides; this one is not an advertisement for anything, and is just an attractive floral design created by D.D. Bean & Sons, who are "manufacturers of quality matchbooks since 1938."

Matchbook cover art for Noah's Art Restaurant in St. Charles, Missouri

Matchbook cover art with floral imagery for D.D. Bean and Sons from North Carolina

Our last pair of matchbooks to be featured today include the "Pep Boys:" Manny, Moe, and Jack, who are "the three best friends your car ever had." The image of these three guys is pretty fun, with their old fashioned clothing and big cartoon heads on skinny bodies. The back side of the matchbook showcases some all season steel belted radial tires.

I also find some humor in this last one, for the "Holiday Shores Disco" in McGregor, Iowa. In fact, this refers to the Holiday Shores Motel, but at the time (1970s, I would assume), this hotel must have had a disco? And both the name "holiday shores" and the image of a waterskier is a reflection of the fact that this hotel is located on the Mississippi River ... it must have been quite the place to visit at the time, with waterskiing by day and disco dancing by night!

Matchbook cover art for Pep Boys with Manny, Moe and Jack

Matchbook cover art with a waterskier for Holiday Shores Disco in McGregor Iowa

Share this page via: