Birds, Nests, and Labels
By Amy Camille Dunn
The urge to find and possess rare and exquisite cigar labels has driven once normal men and women “Cuckoo.” It’s not surprising considering the same urge has driven many oologist (individuals who pursue the scientific study of our feathered friends) to collect bird nests and eggs. During the height of the Victorian era this pursuit was at its peek. According to Joseph Kasterner, author of a World of Watchers, nest collecting was serious sport, full of potential profit. Young men and women of the time would risk life and limb to climb and pilfer nests full of eggs. Carefully, they would pack their find under the most beautiful chromolithography ever produced—in a cigar box.
It is no wonder that the presence of birds proliferate antique cigar labels. If art imitates life, the label Elsie depicts the nest collector’s true feelings of the trials and tribulations of nest collecting. Elsie is a common tricolor label of a young girl overlooking a nest full of eggs. Anyone who has ever come close to a bird’s nest knows it is not the eggs you worry about—it’s the parents!
I parked my car under my brothers’ abandoned basketball net and received a lesson in nest etiquette that I won’t forget. A humming bird built her abode in the basketball netting right above my parking space. She and her nest were so small that I never noticed what I had done until I got out of my car. I was dive-bombed with such ferocity that I was sent running to the front door. I have neither the guts nor the heart to pilfer her nest, however; her prodigy may be named Jordan, Barkley, or Rodman!
Hummer, a cigar label dedicated to these feisty little birds, depicts a hummingbird feeding off of a flowering tobacco plant. There are not enough lithographic stones available to truly capture a living hummingbird’s splendid coloring. Every change of position flashes to view these diminutive birds’ metallic coloring making the hummingbird an ideal subject for the chromolithographer and label collector .
Unlike my little humming bird, a blue jay’s nest is bulky and well hidden. The jay with its reputation as a big, bold, dashing bird is perfect for selling big, bold, cigars. John B. Foster takes advantage of this bird’s reputation by selling Jay-Bee’s– another must have for any bird loving, label hoarding, chromo-litho drooler, who would like to collect this genre. This bee eating blue jay, created by American Lithographic Co., would encourage any cigar smoker to, “Foster the habit of buying Foster’s”.
If you now feel the need to foster the habit of buying bird labels “the eagle has landed.” Labels like- Noble Bird, Union Bird, La Perfeccion, Rex Aguilla, and The Eagle, feature our nation’s favorite-feathered symbol. Some of these labels are still affordable and worthy of a gander. As far as nesting, I dare anyone to try to place an eagle’s nest in a cigar box. The bald eagle’s nest can weigh up to two tons and measure eight feet across and twelve feet deep! The days of the Victorian era are over, yet the ephemera remain. Forget the nests, collect labels!
Copyright © 1998 The Cigar-Label Gazette, P.O. Box 3, Lake Forest, CA 92630