New in the collection: Polk tobacco silk

Image of James K. Polk on fabric

“It was between 1905 and 1910 that tobacco companies in America began inserting textile items into their cigarette and tobacco products. The fad for these textiles was between 1910 and 1916. At the beginning of World War I the practice was more or less abandoned….

“The tobacco or cigarette ‘silk’ was made from a variety of fabrics such as silk or silk satin, a cloth combination of silk and cotton, a cotton sateen or even a plain woven cotton. The silks were often beautifully poly-chrome printed with varied subjects, and were usually printed with the tobacco company name.”

— From “Tobacco Silks” at the Princetonian Museum

This tobacco silk of North Carolina native James K. Polk — from a series of presidents — was included with Mogul cigarettes, although the brand name is missing on this example.

Though likely made of a Turkish blend, Moguls were advertised with an Egyptian theme when introduced by a Greek importer in 1892. In 1900 the company was purchased by American Tobacco, then parceled out to P. Lorillard in the 1911 dissolution of the tobacco trust.