Named after the holy city of Mecca where the prophet Mohammad was born, Mecca Cigarettes were introduced by the Kinney Bros. Tobacco Company in 1878. Famous for its superb advertising and cigarette card inserts, it struck the fancy of the American public, and in 1915 it proclaimed itself to be “the largest selling brand in America today.”
But it wouldn’t last long, as when World War I began, this Turkish brand of cigarettes took it on the chin as the Middle East brands – or those with a Middle East theme – including Turkish and Egyptian brands found that they weren’t popular after Turkey decided to align itself with America’s enemies.
You can also add in the pro-American ‘American-blend’ Camel cigarettes came onto the scene in 1913, as things leading to its fall.
Still…before that, Mecca was a huge player in the Tobacco industry.
In 1910, as part of its T218 set, Mecca released the Champion Athletes and Prizefighters, a 153-card set that included: track and field stars, swimming, rollerskating, diving, bowling, golf, billiards, boxing, and, of course, four popular aeroplane pilots of the day.
Each card measures 2-1/2″ wide x 2-7/8-inches high, and come with Mecca brand advertising on the back, though there are also some versions with Hassan and Tolstoi branding on the reverse.
Mecca Cigarettes, Hassan Cigarettes and Tolstoi Cigarettes where considered a ‘cheaper Turkish blend’ for the National audience, compared to other such brands then available.
Below are the four cards – front and back – of the pilots… with some great information contained on each… and with the bizarre fact that three of the four pilots actually died in 1910 just before these cards came out. Yeesh… talk about a jinx. Charles Keeney Hamilton managed to survive until 1914.
I have not seen these cards in any other format but the Mecca brand, but it is supposed that they do exist for Hassan and Tolstoi.
The pilots are:
- Charles Keeney Hamilton;
- Arch Hoxey;
- Ralph Johnstone;
- John B. Moisant.
Yeesh… talk about a jinx.
I shall take a look at each of these aviators shortly. I will note that despite Charles Keeney Hamilton’s card noting his birthdate as 1881, some think it might have been 1885. The implication is that not everything on the cards need be taken for 100% fact. But… we’ll see.