A Cigarette Card Marriage

In 1900, an unusual wedding took place — all thanks to a tobacco card

In the 19th century, many tobacco cards included pictures of various women. Sometimes the women were in plain clothes and others, they were actually pictured as athletes. But in either case, the goal was the same — to sell more cigarettes.

Most of the women were models, which we know from past newspaper articles. But one problem tobacco manufacturers were actually having was that love-stricken men would see the women on the cards and want to meet them. They were sometimes known, in fact, to appear at the businesses of the tobacco companies distributing the cards, in search of the women.

Sound ludicrous? Sure it does. For one thing, trying to track down a woman that was a model could prove impossible. For another, who could tell the state of the woman and any relationship she may be in. For yet another, trying to track down a woman when her personality isn’t even known is just kind of nuts.

Nevertheless some tried to establish a relationship. And, in fact, one succeeded.

The October 16, 1900 edition of the Arkansas Democrat provides us with a fantastic story. An Arkansas man named Wesson Edwards Washington Reagan, it seems, had opened up a package of Allen & Ginter cigarettes and stumbled upon a beautiful woman named Ella Crawford. Ms. Crawford appeared in the set and ironically, was a worker at the cigarette factory. Some models on tobacco card sets were known to actually be workers of the tobacco firms. More on that in a bit.

N46 Allen & Ginter Cigarette Making GirlsN46 Allen and GinterInterestingly enough, she included her name and address (96 Seemes Street, Manchester, Virginia) on at least one of her cards before packing it inside. Why she did so was not clear but perhaps she was seeking to identify herself to the lucky recipient or even looking for a relationship herself.

Reagan wasn’t famous himself but he did have some ties to a very famous person. He was a near relative of Judge John Reagan, who was at the time, the only surviving member of Jefferson Davis’ confederate cabinet.

Which set was Ella in? Allen & Ginter produced several sets featuring women. However, one in particular, seems like it is a match.

The N46 Allen & Ginter set (some cards are shown here) featured cigarette making girls and was titled as such by Jefferson Burdick in the American Card Catalog. Unfortunately, the pictures do not include the names of the women so, barring the original card with Ella’s name and address on it, we’ll not likely be able to determine which one she was.

Upon finding the card, Reagan wrote to her immediately and received a reply. According to the article, the two corresponded for several months, exchanging photographs and gifts.

Before you knew it (and without even a visit), he asked her to marry him. She accepted and he arrived the day the article was written. Apparently, neither scared each other away and the pair were married that same night.

Nothing like moving quickly.

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