An Oral History Told Through Matchbooks

Matchbook Collection

My career in marketing was partly kindled by matchbooks. My aunt (well traveled) would keep a fish bowl of matchbooks from her numerous travels. As a kid, I'd spend hours organizing them into categories like hotels, restaurants and bars.

Looking at a single matchbook, within a split second we have expectations of clientele, decor, food quality and menu cost. I liked how much could be conveyed about the business without ever having set foot inside. Pretty powerful stuff being emitted from a piece of cardboard with strike strip. During college, I'd learn the marketing psychology behind font selection, color and logo. However the attitude these matchbooks would stir up were pretty inherent to a adolescent, I remember thinking this is powerful stuff.

Over the years close friends who know me well have brought me matchbooks from their travels too. Occasionally I get a lot of matchbooks as a Christmas gifts (thanks Mike!) like the ones from our hometown of Defiance, OH.

The accidental collection has continued to grow over the years and taken on new meanings. Last summer I was at an estate sale and scoped a collection of matchbooks which looked like they were of old Chicago steakhouses and the like. A treasure trove of chop houses and establishments where you would grab a three martini lunch. As I started to unpack the matches I couldn't help but to develop a mental picture of the previous owner. Potentially in advertising, definitely sales... Likely an expense account and enjoys winters in Florida. Each matchbook representing a deal won or lost, or a repreive from a rough day in the office.

They are tiny little books, but they tell a story.