Sweet Caporal was one of the oldest names in cigarette brands, having been sold in the Canadian market for at least 125 years until they were discontinued in 2011. The brand was originally produced in the United States by the Kinney Bros. Tobacco Company, New York, beginning in 1878, and became very popular. Kinney Bros., which was merged into the pre-1911 giant American Tobacco Company, expanded into Montréal; the Sweet Caporal trade mark was registered in Canada in 1887. American Tobacco expanded into Canada in 1895 by buying The American Cigarette Company and D. Ritchie and Compnany, both of Montréal, and becoming the American Tobacco Company of Canada, Ltd.; they in turn were bought out in 1908 by the newly-formed Imperial Tobacco Company of Canada. At the time of Imperial Tobacco’s creation, Sweet Caporals commanded 50 per cent. of the Canadian cigarette market.
In the United States, the American Tobacco Company’s monopoly was broken in 1911; the Sweet Caporal trade mark was retained by the restructured A.T.C.. One of the brand’s distinguishing features was the inclusion of collectible “cigarette cards” in each pack. Sweet Caporal cigarettes pulled its Honus Wagner card from the market in 1915 after the slugger complained he didn’t want kids to see him associated with tobacco products.
In World War II
In Canada, Sweet Caporal Plain was repackaged in 1940, into a cigarette package “sleeve”. The “sleeve” is a glued rectangular box without top or bottom flaps. The cigarettes were packaged into a wrapper and an inner sleeve. During World War II, the Imperial Tobacco Company of Canada Ltd. issued a series of airplane Trading Cards titled Aircraft “Spotter” Series – Allied and Enemy Planes. These cards were issued as part of several Sweet Caporal Cigarettes package designs. There appears to have been four basic package design/sizes, with multiple series on two of the sizes.
The front of the outer says the “Sweet Caporal Cigarettes … Kinney Bros”, the left flap says “Sweet Caporal”, the right flap gives the manufacturer information in both English and French, the back side of the package contains the aircraft card and says Aircraft “Spotter” Series For instructional purposes only-no premium value “Learn to know, friend from foe”. The inner sleeve says Sweet Caporal Cigarettes Gifts to Canadian Troops on active service only, and not for re-sale. Manufactured for the proprietors by the Imperial Tobacco Company of Canada, Limited, in Canada.
These complete packages are considered to be the “Holy Grail” for collectors. They are extremely rare, and even rarer in the higher grades. Do you want to see some of those Aircraft “Spotter” Cards, then visit this page.
I managed to make the artwork for reproductions in two sizes with the Aircraft “Spotter” Card on it. One for a box of 20 Cigarettes and the other one is for a box of 25 cigarettes. These will be available in the shop. I will try to make a few different ones. So collect them all and spot the Allied or Enemy planes.