LIVE PACK: Matchette

by John Kitchen


A real novelty brand Matchette combined cigarettes and matches in the same carton. They were produced by the oddly named Berkos Cigarette Co. Ltd. of London. Hilary's excellent records show the business at 10 Lower John Street, WI between 1924 and 1926. The brand is listed in my Tobacco Year Book for 1934, but this includes past brands and I suspect it may well have ceased to be available before then.


I know of two size of packings being 10 cigarettes with 14 matches at sixpence and 20 cigarettes with 28 matches at one shilling. Both are hull and slide with the matches lined up in book match format stapled to the back of the slide. One side of the hull has a surface like that on the side of a safety match box with instructions "strike here". Having seen empty hulls I often wondered why they were so wide, but a live pack solves the mystery. The cigarettes are packed in groups of 5 each separated in their own compartment by a corrugated inner card. Instructions on the slide advise smokers to "smoke all cigarettes in one compartment first. This will ensure remainder staying securely packed and will prevent deterioration". An amusing comment printed on the back of the hull explains that the novel inclusion of matches prevents that "matchless predicament which all smokers know". It also cleverly describes the product as a "matchless cigarette with matches".

With so many innovations you might imagine Matchette would have been a huge success, particularly since the price at sixpence for 10 was comparable to other large brands like Player's Navy Cut or Will's Gold Flake. I suspect maybe the cigarettes themselves were not quite as good as the maker's claimed, but the real reason that this was a short lived brand could well have been the cumbersome size of the packet. The 20 size particularly is quite a monster.


by John Kitchen


Most of the tobacco companies made use of a "Navy Cut" description for at least one of their cigarette brands. According to the book "From Plantation to Players" published in 1936 the term originates from the days when sailors were allowed to purchase un-manufactured tobacco leaf duty free. They rolled the leaf and then coiled a rope around it which was twisted to tighten onto the tobacco and compress it into a length of "plug”. As required a section of the coil would be unwound and a piece of the plug cut off using a knife. Hence the term Navy Cut. Some brands referred to this same process as Navy Twist. Players claimed to have incorporated this compressing of the leaf into a plug as part of their manufacturing processing and other makers appear to have followed suit in name at least.

The Navy Cut brand of cigarettes sold by Godfrey Phillips at the early part of the last century was Pinnace. Again the, name retains the seagoing theme as a Pinnace was a warship's small boat originally schooner rigged or eight oared, but by the turn of the century steam powered. Pinnaces were used to transport officers from ship to ship or shore.


This die cut show card for Pinnace cigarettes shows a mouth watering array of packets and boxes, some with the contents tumbling out. The design was used up until the early 1930s with modifications to bring the boat up to date. A couple of the open 10 size packets here show rather eerie looking 'women's heads rising out of them. These are the distinctive oval cigarette card "Beauties" that were being packed with Pinnace cigarettes at the time and are a perfect way of being able to accurately date the show card to 1914 when the series was issued. In the 1920s this brand was famous for the 'long running series of small photographs of footballers that were issued with it. So popular were they that the wording "a real photo in every packet" was added beneath the triangular logo.

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