The Dark Side of Cigar Box Labels

Racism, bigotry, vanity, repressed sexual fantasy, these are all themes that were used on 19th century vintage cigar box labels to help promote the idea of white male supremacy.  Anthropologists of the day treated people as racial specimens measuring everything from facial features to cephalic brain size to prove the white man was the superior race. Blacks, Indians, Mongolians, and Women, were all depicted as inferior to the white man.

The word savage was used to denote indigenous peoples.

Western views on the history of the world also had a definite white man’s slant. From Greece to Rome, to Western Europe and America the history of the world left vast gaps,  relegating non-white cultures to minor and insignificant.

In the latter half of the 19th century, Victorian ideals dominated the domestic sphere.

Society forced citizens to repress their sexuality and sensual feelings. Amidst the social forces that restricted the lives of men and women alike cigar box labels emerged as an outlet for self expression. Men could now openly fantasize about the sexual pleasures and keep it in the confines of the men only club.

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