Information on the charming set of matchbox covers featured in this post is hard to come by. I know they’re Japanese, any idiot can see that. And I know that their date of origin is almost certainly from before 1950. They stem from a collection of matchbox “labels” that is on Flickr and that has recently become one of my favorite places on the Internet. Vintage Japanese matchbox covers are incredible.
The person who runs that set of images, who uses the Flickr username maraid, explains that the collection had been the passion of the grandfather of a friend, and also that the images date from “1920s-1940s.”
All of the covers feature an image of an unaccompanied woman in a state of undress. There is more than one woman in the series. The images have a very consistent palette of a blue, red, green, and a cream color used mainly for the skin. Sometimes the model is outdoors, but mostly she is indoors. She is never shown doing anything particularly erotic, just hanging out or fooling around with her kitties, that’s was evidently erotic enough back in the day. Some of the images derive from an artist’s studio, as can be seen in the instances in which cans of paint brushes are included.
Before public health drives to reduce smoking, before the advent of vaping, before the advent of widely available lighters (not to mention those fancy windproof lighters), matchboxes were a widely familiar medium. I quit smoking five years ago, and I’ve scarcely lit a match since then, and I don’t carry matches with me anymore (even then I preferred lighters). You’d think that marijuana legalization would do wonders for the matchbox industry, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
These images are signed, which is unusual for matchbox covers from that era—surely an indication that the artist and maybe even the manufacturer recognized these as something special. Most matchbox labels are seen as “just advertising” so there’s seldom information about who did them. Even with the signed initials, I still have no idea who did these. Hats off, in any case.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Looking for a TON of burlesque matchbook covers? Well, you can stop looking.
Sexy vintage matchbook covers