Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

William S. Hart

Tobacco Card, British South Africa

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Lobby Card


Sweden 1921


Tobacco Card
South Africa 1922

Actor William S. Hart is costumed, appropriately enough, for his role as a Canadian Mountie in 1921's "O'Malley of the Mounted" on this 1922 tobacco card that was made for distribution in South Africa, then a self-governing dominion of the British Empire (similar to Canada and Australia). Hart was one of several leading U.S. actors to appear in the card series.

Collected and traded like later bubble-gum cards, tobacco cards came in packs of cigarettes. They started in the United States in 1875; in the United Kingdom they were initiated in 1887 by W.D. & H.O. Wills, est. 1786 in Bristol, England.

The back of this card depicts a 10-pack of Wills' Flag-brand cigarettes. It reads: "The Flag / Manufactured in South Africa by The United Tobacco Cos. (South) Ltd. / Successor to W.D. & H.O. Wills / Bristol and London."

Wills had a major market share in South Africa at the turn of the 20th Century despite competition from American makers. The 1899-1902 Boer War gave Wills an edge over the Americans when arriving British ships bearing military supplies including tobacco for the troops were favored over U.S. ships. In 1901, Wills and 12 smaller British companies formed Imperial Tobacco Company.

At the war's end, onetime rivals Imperial (headed by the Wills family) and the American Tobacco Company teamed up to form the British American Tobacco (BAT) Co. It was and is one of the world's biggest cigarette makers. (As of 2020, BAT is No. 2 behind Phillip Morris overall, and BAT has the largest non-U.S. market share.*)

Prior to the merger, both Wills and the Americans had contracted separately with the same local South African company to manufacture their brand products. Now, in 1904, BAT and the local manufacturer jointly formed a new company, United Tobacco Companies Ltd. It created two subsidiaries, one in the north, based in Johannesburg, and one in the south — The United Tobacco Cos. (South) Ltd. — based in Cape Town. Both purchased their raw tobacco leaf from Southern Rhodesia, which was still under the thumb of the British South Africa Company in 1922, when our tobacco card was issued. In 1923, Great Britain annexed Southern Rhodesia. Today it's Zimbabwe.

* BAT's global brands include Dunhill, Kent, Lucky Strike, Pall Mall and Rothmans. In 2017, when it acquired Reynolds American Inc., BAT inherited Newport, Camel and Natural American Spirit. Niche brands include Vogue, Viceroy, Kool, Peter Stuyvesant, State Express 555 and Shuang Xi, as well as fine-cut (roll your own) tobacco.

See another BAT tobacco card featuring William S. Hart.

(Main sources: "The Global Cigarette: Origins and Evolution of British American Tobacco, 1880-1945" by Howard Cox, Oxford University Press, 2000. Also:

About "O'Malley of the Mounted."

From Koszarski (1980:129): Produced by the William S. Hart Company; distributed by Paramount-Artcraft; released February 1921; ©December 20, 1920; six reels (5626 feet).

Directed by Lambert Hillyer; screenplay by Lambert Hillyer from a story by William S. Hart; photographed by Joe August; art director, J.C. Hoffner; art titles by Harry Barndollar.

Cast: William S. Hart (Sergeant O'Malley); Eva Novak (Rose Lanier); Antrim Short (Bud Lanier); Leo Willis (Red Jaeger); Bertholde Sprotte (the Sheriff); Alfred Allen (Big Judson).

Synopsis (from Motion Picture World, February 19, 1921): "O'Malley of the Mounted" is a sergeant who has won his stripes by getting any criminal he is sent out to arrest, this in wild Northwestern territory amid men who dare follow their own impulses rather than obey the law. On account of his reputation, he is sent to bring in the murderer of a saloon-keeper named La Grange. He takes a southern trail, believing that the criminal has escaped over the border. At a rude entertainment known as a "stampede" in Forker City, O'Malley becomes interested in the performance of some riders reputed to belong to a band of outlaws. He follows them to their stronghold in the Baldy Mountains and decides to become one of them by robbing a bank. He holds up the cashier for $5,000 and escapes with the loot. He is chased by a posse to the Baldy Mountains and thus obtains admittance to membership in the gang of outlaws.

O'Malley becomes strongly attracted by Rose Lanier and her brother, Bud, the latter a fugitive from justice. He fights a desperate character known as Red Jaeger in defense of the girl and is badly wounded. Red resolves to betray the entire band and rides to the sheriff's office secretly for that purpose. He there learns that the bank's money has been returned by the supposed robber and obtains written evidence that [O'Malley] is playing the part of a traitor. He produces the evidence when the gang has returned from a disastrous raid.

O'Malley is bound to a tree and placed under guard to be hanged at daybreak. Even Rose Lanier seems to turn against him, but she does so as a ruse while handing him a knife. By Rose and Bud the sergeant is rescued from sure death. While riding with them toward the border he confirms his suspicions that Bud is the murderer he is seeking, but finds that the killing was done to avenge a wronged sister. He leaves the brother and sister to make his report, and finds his act justified by his commanding officer. He returns to his loved one no longer "O'Malley of the Moutned."

Review (from Wid's, February 13, 1921): Bill Hart is like the old family physician — you have great faith in what he prescribes. And you can always depend on him. ... Besides some fine action, a great fist fight and rodeo sequence, there is a genuine sympathetic twist toward the close, when the [Royal Mounted] officer returns to hand in his resignation rather than arrest the brother of the girl he loves.

LW3750: 9600 dpi jpeg from original tobacco card purchased 2019 by Leon Worden.
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