The image of a young debonair American colonial man was widely used by the Robert Burns brand of cigars in the early 1900’s. The Robert Burns brand of cigars featured this image on larger charger tray signs as well as the featured vitrolite corner sign in the early 1900’s. Both signs are wildly popular today with collectors as both are from highly collected categories of collecting interest. Early corner signs remain one of the more elusive styles of signs to be found, and charger’s have long been popular due to their size and brightness of the graphics on almost all of them.
I find it very interesting to see the Robert Burns cigar advertising items using a permanent price tag on an advertising piece typically designed to be used for a long time due to high cost production with a vitrolite sign. Interestingly, the brand often placed a 10 cent price tag on their advertising items which normally would tend to shorten the potential life of the advertising item since any price change would outdate the sign immediately. Typically when a sign includes a price it is cardboard or some type of material which can be changed out as the price changes. However, these popular Burns cigar pieces were made in a manner which would cost a significant amount of money to update them whenever the price changed as the entire vitrolite front would have to be changed if a sign change occurred. I can only theorize the new price was intended to be a long term price decision, hence, the cost would be okay if amortized over a long time period?
The popular Robert Burns cigar brand was part of a nationwide launch where the company made a very specific attempt to eliminate the local or regional brands which was occurring in the early 1900’s. Before 1920, most cigars were manufactured and sold locally by local people. In the U.S. alone there were literally thousands of small cigar manufacturers, and some small towns with only 1,000 people living within their city limits would have three or four cigar makers alone in the town.
The General Cigar company launched 4 brands in their effort to go nationally with a few brands while they discontinued their regional brands. Some of the larger national brands which were launched nationwide at the time include White Owl, Van Dyck, Wm. Penn and Robert Burns. Unfortunately, all of those cigar brands have slowly been discontinued over the years, but their names and significance to the tobacco history, there names will be around for a long time in the various forms of advertising they left behind.