Tobacco Advertising Letter Transcript

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Below is a transcript of a letter from Washington Duke to son James B. Duke regarding the use of "lascivious photographs" on insert cards as an "inducement" to the public to purchase W. Duke Sons, & Co. cigarettes.

One of the most effective advertising methods created by James B. Duke was the inclusion of trade cards in each packet of cigarettes. These are the direct ancestors to our current baseball and Pokémon trading cards - with the same objective to encourage the customer to collect as many as possible. Ranging from "Histories of Civil War Generals" to "Coins of All Nations" series the most popular card subjects were pictures of women ('actresses'), usually scantily clad. Many images on the trade cards are of unidentified women in a variety of costumes. However, famous actresses of that time such as Lillie Langtry and Ellen Terry were featured in various series.


October 17th, 1894

[JB Duke, NY]

My dear Son: -
I have received the enclosed letter from the Rev. John C. Hocutt, and am very much impressed with the wisdom of his argument against circulating lascivious photographs with cigarettes, and have made up my mind to bring the matter to your attention in the interest of morality, and in the hope that you can invent a proper substitute for these pictures which will answer your requirements as an advertisement as well as an inducement to purchase. His views are so thoroughly and plainly stated that I do not know how that I can add anything except to state that they accord with my own, and that I have always looked upon the distribution of this character of advertisement as wrong in its pernicious effects upon young man and womanhood, and therefore has not jingled with my religious impulses. Outside of the fact that we owe christianity all the assistance we can lend it in any form, which is paramount to any other consideration, I am fully convinced that this mode of advertising will be used and greatly streghten [sic, "strengthen"] the arguments against cigarettes in the legislative halls of the States. I hope you will consider this carefully and appreciate my side of the question. It would please me very much to know that a change had been made.

Affectionately, your father,

[W. Duke]



Source: Letterbook, Benjamin N. Duke Papers.

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