Tuesday 1 June 2010

Ghost signs (35): Marcella cigars

On a bank holiday trip to Southend, I couldn't resist this ghost sign for a tobacconist (I'm guessing Marsh?). It promises Marcella cigars for 3d each, or five for a shilling - in modern terminology, buy four and get the fifth free. My first thought was 'gosh, that must date from a time when prices didn't change too often.' My second was, 'what exactly were Marcella cigars?'

A quick look around eBay was enough to locate several newspaper adverts from 1908 making this same price offer, which suggests a very rough age for the ghost sign. Around this period, their slogan was 'All ranks smoke Marcella cigars', illustrated with a line of soldiers. Marcellas were made by the Imperial Tobacco Company.

ITC had itself only been born in 1901, when a number of British tobacco brands joined together to fight off the threat of takeover from the American Tobacco Company. Larger members included Wills, Lambert & Butler, and John Player & Sons. (ATC's head, James Buchanan Duke, had failed to endear himself when he visited Players to announce 'Hello, boys. I'm Duke from New York, come to take over your business.') Although united in one company, the thirteen firms who made up Imperial Tobacco continued to manufacture and trade under their own names. It's therefore probable that Marcella were a family firm before that date.

I haven't managed to track down the start and end dates for Marcella, but they were certainly still making cigars after the Second World War. An advertisment from 1950 shows that there were now several types of Marcella: whiffs (small cigars) at 7d, Elegantes at 1/3d and Chicas at an extravagant 1/7d each. In this post-war world they were, apparently, appreciated by 'men at leisure' playing cricket, sitting in the garden or relaxing at home.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I used to have a job on a farm in my school holidays,that would be 1958 to 1965. I think I used to get £2 per week. I didn't tip up at home but I had to buy my dad 5 Marcella cigars and my mum a box of Dairy Box. The cigars were 3s and 11p (today 20p ). They came in a brown flat pack as other cigars did such as Manikin. So they were still made around 1965. Regards Paul Bowen