Featured here are two large 48 count 5 cent packet containers for the well-known Sweet Burley Brand of smoking tobacco from the Spaulding and Merrick Tobacco Company, based in Chicago, Illinois. The Sweet Burley brand was sold in both Light and Dark versions, as denoted on each of the two colored cans. The Light brand was apparently a much bigger seller, as the yellow Light brand version is much more commonly found today than the red Dark style of tobacco can.
Interestingly, this style of store shelf container was intended for a customer to take the individual packets out of the can. Apparently this was a very successful way of selling tobacco in the early 1900’s as collectors today can find other big selling tobacco brands in this type of can, including Sweet Mist, Sweet Cuba, Sterling, and Tiger Tobacco. Like the Sweet Burley brand, the Tiger brand also comes in two different colors, one for light, and one for dark.
The Spaulding and Merrick Tobacco Company was actually one of about 65 different companies which were owned by the American Tobacco Company of Durham, N.C. Other well-known companies at the time under this umbrella were the Liggett Myers Tobacco Company of St. Louis, Allen and Ginter of Richmond, Nall & Williams of Louisville, John Bollman Company in San Francisco, Pinkerton Company in Toledo, and W. R. Irby of New Orleans.
Since the U. S. Government is not interested in allowing monopolies, the American Tobacco Company was broken up into separate companies including R. J. Reynolds Co., Liggett & Myers, Lorillard Co., while retaining some of the entity under the American Tobacco entity. The U. S. Government simply wanted competition, and broke up the Standard Oil Trust on the very same day in 1911.
With the breakup of the American Tobacco Company many of the brand which propelled the company to such success were simply not promoted as much as they had been historically under the new ownership, so brands like Sweet Burley simply started to sell in lesser quantities over time. However, collectors are left with very colorful pieces of early advertising before the big break up occurred to cherish still today.