Fatimas (pronounced, “fuh TEEM uhs”) were a mysterious cigarette. First launched around the middle of the 1800s, they were marketed as coming from far-away Turkey and featured the image of a veiled woman (Fatima) surrounded by unusual symbols. Though Turkish tobacco was part of the blend, there was, of course, little exotic about these cigarettes. The cigarettes were the product of U.S. manufacturer Liggett and Myers.
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Sometime around 1875, a competing tobacco company, Allen and Ginter, began adding collectible cards in each pack of their cigarettes. The move was designed partly to sell more cigarettes and, at the same time, to stiffen the pack. Fatima followed suit and in 1910 began a series on popular actresses of the day.
Among the featured Fatima actresses was Laurette Taylor (b. 1883), a widely acclaimed American stage and silent film star whose “outsized personality, mercurial moods, and eccentricities became legendary.” She reportedly suffered from severe alcoholism and died in 1946.
A member of the Ziegfeld Follies (and common law wife of its founder), Anna Held was known for her “risqué songs, flirtatious nature and willingness to show her legs on stage.” It was said that she had some of her ribs surgically removed in order to improve her figure. Held was considered a heroine for entertaining front line troops during World War I. She died in 1918 at the age of 46.
Flora Zabelle was a Broadway actress who appeared in several early silent films. Tragedy struck when her husband, musical comedy star Raymond Hitchcock, collapsed and died in their automobile when she was only 49. Unlike the “Turkish Cigarettes” that she sponsored, Zabelle was the real deal, having been born in Constantinople in 1880. She died in 1968 at the age of 88.
Over the years, cigarette manufacturers also offered cards of baseball players, flags, military medals, and even “cheesecake” pinups.
Like all cigarettes, the Fatima brand was a prolific advertiser and Fatimas were often seen dangling between the fingers of Dragnet’s Jack Webb. They last appeared as a sponsor of the radio show Gunsmoke in 1954. and print ads for the brand can be found as late as 1955. After that, however, interest in Fatimas seems to fade. Still, despite low sales, cigarette historian Jim Shaw says that it took Liggette and Myers until the early months of 1981 to finally withdrew the brand.
Click here to listen to an undated Fatima radio advertisement.
Joe Miller, AtticExplorers.com
The Fatima cigarette card comes from Joe Miller, the picture of Fatima cigarettes from an old advertisement and the radio ad from OldTimeRadioFans.com.
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