What can we learn from the “free” tobacco novelties that women collected and creatively made into items for their families?

This traveling exhibit is the first to tell the story of fabric novelties issued with tobacco products (1880 to 1920) which women sewed into colorful items for the home. The exhibition features cigar ribbons, cigarette “silkies,” and tobacco flannels from the Ethel Ewert Abrahams collection.



Brightly colored silk ribbons were tied around bundles of cigars to advertise their quality and brand names. The ribbons became a popular collectible during the 1880s, and many women sewed them into table covers, quilts, and pillow tops. With increased competition in the tobacco industry in the early 20th century, new advertising items were produced to promote regular purchase and brand loyalty. 

Both silk and cotton flannel novelties were printed in collectible sets and distributed with tobacco purchases. Women were encouraged to collect these fabric novelties and to make them into useful and decorative items for the home.


This collection has been featured in two publications–Quilters Newsletter Magazine, June 2001 issue, and Uncoverings 2000, an article excerpted from a research paper presented to the American Quilt study group.


Exhibition designed and produced by local exhibition team: David Kreider, Rachel Pannabecker, and Chuck Regier.


27th and North Main St.
North Newton, KS 67117
Across from the campus of
Bethel College


Tue-Fri  9:30am-4:30pm
Sat-Sun 1:30pm-4:30pm
Closed Mondays and
Major Holidays


(316) 283-1612
Mailing address:
300 E. 27th Street
North Newton, KS, 67117-1716