Step inside the Skirvin Hilton Hotel, Balliet’s or any trendy restaurant, and chances are there will not be any customized matchbooks provided by the host. But throughout much of the 1900s, matchbooks were commonplace in the hospitality industry – and were a thriving conduit for advertising around the world.
According to the American Matchbook Collecting Club, tens of thousands of advertisers were using matchbooks by the 1920s, making it one of the most popular means of advertising at the time.
For about $5 a case for 2,500 professionally printed matchbooks, a small business could get enough professionally printed matchbooks. Matchbook production peaked at 500,000 in 1945, and then went into a slow decline with the advent of lighters followed by anti-smoking laws.
Hundreds of matchbooks have been provided for display by Retro Metro OKC by Kyle Anderson, owner of Kyle’s 1025 restaurant and Retro Metro OKC founding member Norman Thompson.
The Vintage OKC Matchbook Collection includes some stunning examples, including a matchbook for Beverly’s restaurant that shows a full color logo printed on the actual matchsticks. The Kerr’s Department Store matchbook is unique in that it is designed to close at the top of the two covers instead of at the strike strip.
Each matchbook was staged and photographed by Retro Metro OKC webmaster Justin Tyler Moore to allow for a full view of each item. The matchbooks provide a glimpse at advertising campaigns for some of Oklahoma City’s most beloved businesses, and also show the broad appeal of matchbook advertising during an era when smoking was commonplace in hotels, restaurants, shops and offices.