This Victorian era lithograph features an image of the incredibly successful singer/actress Lillian Russell. In fact, The Seidenberg Company believed in her image so much they named one of their cigar brands after her in the late 1800’s. This particular image features the starlet in a fashionable hat, a pretty red and white dress, but does not show an image of a cigar on it anywhere. This was done since woman were not really supposed to be smokers in that era, and accordingly, Lillian is never shown in any of the brands advertising smoking a cigar. The company obviously felt having her name associated with the brand was good enough to drive sales!
The Seidenberg and Company Cigar Company was one of the first companies to capitalize on using a contemporary person’s name to help sell their products. Before Lillian Russell Cigars became a cigar brand, companies of that era typically used historical figures to help them advertise their wares. Political figures, war hero’s, greek mythological characters, and other images of the past were typically used in advertising. However, around the early 1900’s companies started to use more current celebrity figures in their advertising. Ms. Russell surely saw the advantage of having her name plastered across cigar store and country general stores on boxes and signs. Given her worldwide fame when she died in 1922, I suspect her willingness to attach her image to a product like this cigar brand helped ensure her name remained in the public eye, especially important in the days before television and the movies were available to help support her career. Today companies continue to incorporate current celebrities in their advertising to help sell their specific brands. We can thank Lillian Russell for helping pave that tradition long ago.