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Buried Treasure at the Rosenberg Library: Jack Johnson Cigarette Cards

Buried Treasure at the Rosenberg Library: Jack Johnson Cigarette Cards

Collage of Rosenberg images by the Elegant Fowl

Each month, the Galveston, Texas Rosenberg Library Museum displays great finds and acquistions from the archives. The latest Treasure of the Month is a pair of cigarette cards featuring portraits of Jack Johnson – Galveston native and first Black world heavyweight boxing champion. It’s just in time to honor Juneteenth in Galveston – the birthplace of the holiday. Look for related Juneteenth events and posts as we get closer to the official day, June 19.   – Editor

World Heavyweight Champ, Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson, nicknamed “The Galveston Giant,” was born in Galveston in 1878. He first learned to box in his travels as a young man. In 1898, Johnson returned to Galveston and made his professional debut. In 1908, Johnson won the titles of World Heavyweight Champion. He held the title until 1915. Johnson faced racist press throughout his career. After one fight, race riots broke out in more than 25 states and 50 cities, killing at least 20 people and injuring hundreds more.

Why Cigarette Cards?

From the 1870s to the 1940s, cigarette companies often included cardboard trading cards in their products to stiffen the packaging and advertise their brand. The cards covered a variety of subjects, such as popular actresses and models, athletes, military figures, animals, and much more. Collecting these cards became a popular hobby.

The cards in the Rosenberg collection date from 1910 and are part of the “Champion Athlete & Prize Fighter Series,” issued by two American companies, Hassan Cigarettes and Mecca Cigarettes. Both cards in the collection have a full-color illustration of Jack Johnson on the front, and a short biography with information about his most important matches through 1909.

The Library purchased these cards at auction as part of ongoing efforts to preserve and display diverse stories within Galveston’s history. The fact that the island has kickstarted so many stories of incredible success, including Jack Johnson’s undefeated talent, reflects the true meaning and influence of Juneteenth in Galveston’s culture – having the opportunity to excel and be the best human you can be.

Read More at Rosenberg Library

About The Source

Rosenberg Library

Rosenberg Library is the only public library on Galveston Island, and is the oldest continuously run library in the state of Texas. A blend of old and new, the building houses four floors of services for all ages including a collection of print books and audiobooks, newspapers and magazines, and historic archives.

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