Vintage cigar boxes go virtual in Museum’s online exhibition

April 24, 2007

Vintage cigar boxes go virtual in Museum of Civilization’s smokin’ online exhibition

Gatineau, Quebec, April 24, 2007 — Sometimes a cigar box is just a cigar box, but that’s clearly not the case with Canada in a Box: Cigar Containers that Store Our Past 1883–1935. The Canadian Museum of Civilization’s new virtual exhibition, on view at, is a refreshingly different look at our nation’s history as depicted on the lids of vintage wooden cigar boxes.

Smoking has largely fallen out of fashion, and Canada may never have rivalled Cuba in stogie production, but between 1883 and 1930, an astonishing 1,500 cigar factories from coast to coast produced dozens of brands each.

Competition was fierce on the shelves of the tobacco shops, so manufacturers displayed their cigars in colourfully illustrated boxes to grab customers’ attention. They hired artists to adorn their wares with lithographs featuring current events, celebrities, politicians, beautiful women, sporting men, scenes of everyday life, national symbols — even cartoons and depictions of ethnic stereotypes.

Canada in a Box: Cigar Containers that Store our Past 1883–1935 features 180 cigar boxes depicting subjects both whimsical and serious, including Jumbo the elephant, former Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Yukon Gold Rush and a very patriotic character named “Jack Canuck.”

“These vintage cigar boxes are more than just pretty packaging. Together, they comprise a wonderful chronicle of social history that we want to share with Canadians,” says Dr. Victor Rabinovitch, President and CEO of the Canadian Museums of Civilization Corporation.

The exhibition is the inspiration of Sheldon Posen, Curator of Canadian Folklife at the Museum of Civilization. “Canada in a Box provides some fascinating insights into what was on the minds of Canadians 100 years ago, what inspired them, what made them laugh — aspects of our society that were once popular enough to sell cigars, but haven’t necessarily made it into our history textbooks,” says Dr. Posen.

Posen, a reformed smoker, got hooked on Canadian cigar boxes in the late 1990s and has since helped the Museum amass more than 400 of these unusual repositories of Canadian cultural history — the largest such collection in the world.

A number of the colourful cigar boxes were first displayed at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 2003–2004, as part of a small display called Story Boxes: The Tony Hyman Collection.

Media Information:

Chief, Media Relations
Canadian Museum of Civilization
Tel.: 819 776-7167

Media Relations Officer
Canadian Museum of Civilization
Tel.: 819 776-7169

Fax: 819 776-7187

2007-04-24 00:00:00.000