Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Lost Art of the Matchbook Cover

My great-grandparents collected matchbooks. I don't know whether they went to all the places they collected matches from, but they had a lot. My great-grandpa died before I was born, but we used to go see my great-grandma and I was fascinated by great glass jars of matchbooks.

Somehow, my sister got a hold of these over the years and I have always coveted them. Now that she is moving and getting rid of excess, I was finally able to get them.

Some of these matchbooks are really cool-looking. Most are from restaurants, casinos and hotels. One is from the Twin Drive-In in Independence, MO, which proudly advertised itself as "Kansas City's Most Fabulous Movie Entertainment Center," which is kind of funny if you know Independence. But some are from odd, out-of-the-way places, and others are advertisements or even political campaign materials. The one thing they all have in common is a pleasing retro design, some more pleasing than others.

This collection is a real snapshot of America from the 1940s through 1960s. Some of the matchbook covers are worth scanning in at high resolution, and I may get around to that someday soon. There's probably a whole sub-branch of history that deals with matchbook covers, for all I know. It's certainly a real slice of popular road and club culture.

...and a big glass globe full of them is an interesting and attractive accessory for home or office.


  1. well that is one less thing I have to worry about when my estate gets settled. Very good. I told you that as a cub scout, one project I had to do was collect match book covers. I glued them in a scrap book. That may be where they got the idea from because they were always on the look out for them when I was doing the collecting. Good job.

  2. I've been collecting matchbooks for a few years, particularly the ones from the 1930's and 1940's. There's lots of history in them and the graphic design, art and typography is amazing.

    Check out the biggest club in the U.S., the Rathkamp Matchcover Society here: