Matchbooks – A Tiny Canvas Packed with Power

Exploring the Fascinating Art on Match Books- Advertisements with Spark!

In the late 1800’s the matchbook was a common form of advertisement. Many historians point to the Mendelson Opera as the first to use matchbooks for advertising purposes and from then on the trend continued.

Inspired by the Opera’s innovation, Diamond Match salesman Henry Traute began approaching manufacturers to advertise their products on his company’s matches, promoting them as something that would be viewed by their users many times a day. And he was right about this. In a culture where many adults smoked and needed a light, the matchbox came in handy. Among the first companies to order advertising matchbooks were Pabst beer, American Tobacco Company and Wrigley’s Chewing Gum. He also encouraged his customers to give away matchbooks as a promotional items.

Matchbooks were perfect little canvas for advertisements and during the 1940’s and 50’s matchbook advertisements peaked.

Creative designs took center stage on the few inches that traveled everywhere.

Designing on such a small space was an art at the time and proclaimed a message that couldn’t be missed. From souvenirs from the World’s Fair in 1930 to product ads, restaurant reminders, destination souvenirs and much more, matchbooks were a sure hit for businesses who wanted the most bang for their buck.

For artist and designers, matchbook design was a treat. Creativity was encouraged to make the most of the space and also to delight the ‘user’ each time a match was struck. From elegant designs, to funny and sometimes raunchy, early vintage matchbook design made it’s mark in history.

After the 1950’s, matchbooks steadily declined because of the availability of disposable lighters and various anti-smoking health campaigns. However today they are collectables and reminders of a bygone era.


The famous Charles Lindbergh matchcover, dated June 14, 1927, is the most coveted in the hobby. It is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the valuable matchcover in the world, selling for a record $6,000 in 2015.

Vintage restaurant matchbook

Vintage Anderson Split Pea Soup Matchbook

1969 Man Walks on Moon Matchbook Art

Worlds Fair Matchbook 1939

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