English Cigarette Card Roses

Rosa 'Lichfield Angel' :
Rosa 'Lichfield Angel'

There's a guy in the UK selling these cigarette cards on EBay.  I bought a set for a few dollars and had them framed up.  The picture shows just a few--they come 50 to a set.  This set was introduced in 1926 and reflect the roses that were popular at that time.  I thought they were fun, a little because they are old roses and I like roses, and a little because of my Great Uncle Tony who had a garage wall papered with cards like these.

Cigarette card roses

These cards were issued by various cigarette manufacturers as a way of boosting sales.  They came inside packages of cigarettes, one to a package or a whole set, I'm not sure which, and you could collect the series if you smoked enough, or you could give the brightly colored cards to your kids so they could grow up thinking cigarettes were lovely things.

A Southern California bread bakery issued cards them too--and the cards Uncle Tony had may have been  those bread cards, since not only did he live in  his garage, he also lived entirely on bread, peanut butter, and Canadian Club. 

My Great Uncle Tony lived in his card-lined garage along with dozens and dozens of clocks.  He had sets of passenger ship cards, dog breed cards, steam-powered automobile cards, train engine cards, fruit and berry cards, and on and on, all of them covered with a thick yellow-brown layer of nicotine from the cigarettes he constantly smoked.  If you are a little kid, an uncle who lives in his garage with brightly colored trading cards stapled all over the walls and clocks everywhere--oh how we loved noontime, when they all bonged and chimed and dinged---is a very very cool thing.   And what he used as a refrigerator was an old red and white (and rust) Coca Cola bottle dispenser.  You can just imagine how impressed a five-year-old would be with that.  My Mom was a little uneasy, but my Dad was used to him.  My Dad was orphaned at a young age, so his uncles and aunts were what passed for parents, and he loved them.   

Uncle Tony, as I recall in my haphazard early memories, was a dead ringer for Jed Clampett, down to the hole in his hat, the heavy work boots, and the grizzled, unshaven chin.  He was always nice to us, though he didn't have much to say to kids.  He had a heavy Quebequois accent and his speech was a mix of English, Habitant, and of course Canadian Club.  I remember that the pathway to his garage was planted on both sides with mounds of Soleirolia soleirolii generously dotted with Viola tricolor and pink Oxalis.  I remember the plants! 
Those memories are part of why I got those rose cards and framed them up.  To hang them on my wall is to somehow echo my Great Uncle, an echo changed and mutated by chance, circumstance, and time, as all memory surely is changed.  Luckily that penchant for Canadian Club skipped my generation, but one of his clocks dings and dongs and ticks and bongs in our hallway every noon.  Families and roses roll on.

Rosa 'Gloire de Dijon':
Rosa 'Gloire  de Dijon'

Quite a few of the roses illustrated in the card set are still commonly grown today.  I grew 'Lady Hillingdon' for a while, and such roses as  'Blush Rambler', 'Excelsa', 'General MacArthur',  'Madame  Abel Chatenay',  'Los Angeles', and 'Caroline Testout' are still available for purchase.

'Lady Hillingdon':
Rosa 'Lady  Hillingdon'

Happy Birthday, Dad! We miss you!
I Remember


  1. Hoov, this was lovely. It's those eccentric, marginal relatives that make such an impression on us as kids, sometimes as cautionary tales or sometimes as people just living different lives than we're familiar with. Thanks for the photo of Lady Hill. I'd really like to find the climbing form. And love that Mackintosh/Arts & Crafts vase!


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