Sino-Belgian Tobacco Co

Smoking tobacco in China existed long before the establishment of foreign Concessions, but cigarettes were definitely brought by foreigners. Although they were probably invented in South America, Cigarettes get their name from French as the were first largely smoked and produced first in France in the 1830s. The tobacco product became more and more popular worldwide after the development of cigarette manufacturing machines in the 1880s. By the 1920s, cigarette was known in most part of the World and was strongly linked with the export of Holywood movies.

Shanghai was no exception and served as a base for selling cigarettes all over China. The largest companies were British American tobacco and Nanyang brothers which both had their China headquarters in Shanghai. Cigarette manufacturing and trading was a massive and very lucrative business. Many local and foreign companies tried to get a piece of the market, including Russian-China cigarettes company mentioned in a previous article.

I bought the box pictured above a long time ago in an antic market. The long shape of the box was unusual (I later learned that it was to contain 100 cigarettes) and company name “Sino-Belgian Tobacco Co” attracted by attention. Since I never heard about this company, I assumed it was a local company made by a Belgian in Shanghai with Chinese partners. It definitely looked like a foreign brand packaging.

At first, I only found little information about the Sino-Belgian Tobacco Co. Only a couple of boxes like this showed up on the internet, but I later got some better results: Sino-Belgian Tobacco Co (華比煙草公司), incorporated 1919 at 147 Seward Road, later relocated to 1176 Woosung Road. It was actually created by two Belgian people, but I don’t have their names. Both location were in Hongkou, the original industrial district of Shanghai that expanded later into today’s Yangpu district. The building on Wusong lu (pictured below) has disappeared, probably destroyed when the road was enlarged, if not before.

Like other cigarette brands, it published advertising posters. This one is probably from the late 1930s or 40s with it’s geometrical font and simple motives.

Picture MOFBA

I later bought the below smaller box from the same brand, and found the matching advertising.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Captain-Cigarettes-small-2.jpg
Picture MOFBA

Although I mostly mentioned Captain Cigarettes brand (船主 / 克浦), but they also had other brands including Young Lady (名妹) pictured below, Jockey (新骑师) and 大仙烏牌.

Picture MOFBA

Russia-China Tobacco Ltd

Cigarettes advertising poster from the 1920’s

Advertising posters were the main way of promoting brands in the 1920’s and 1930’s Shanghai. The methods was brought from the USA mostly by Carl Crow, who made the largest advertising company at the time.

Although there are many fakes and reprints, real old posters are really rare to find nowadays. I happened to buy this one from an antic dealer in 2007 (I think). After years of storage, it is now properly framed and I take a good picture of it.

As common at the time, the center of the picture is a young Chinese girl, dressed with foreign clothes and in a foreign-style environment. This kind of advertisement was showing best style and modernity to be associated with the cigarette brands, so the author used the most up-to-date style. for closing and environment.From the layout as well as clothing, I would date it from the early to mid 1920’s, rather than the 1930’s seen with many of those calendars.

Just like today, advertising from that period was following the latest style. In the mid 30’s, they would show of the environment, focusing more closely on the woman. Her dress and posture would be more modern, and suggestive. Lettering would be more Art Deco inspired.

Russia-China Tobacco Company (驻奉中俄烟草公司 in Chinese) was located in Fengtian (today Shenyang) but little more is known about the company itself. It produced quite a number of advertising posters, that can be found on various auction websites. They range from mid-20’s style to early 30’s. Although some seem to be from a very similar period, I did not find pictures of this particular one.

Another post about Cigarette brand advertising in Old Shanghai is Sino-Belgian Tobacco Co.