Le Nil cigarette paper

Le Nil cigarette paper

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Title: They all say I only smoke the Nile.

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Dimensions: Height 193 - Width 121

Technique and other indications: Handcoloured lithograph After Albert Guillaume (1873-1942) circa 1910.

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

Picture reference: 05-513791 / 61254F

They all say I only smoke the Nile.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

Publication date: October 2011

Professor of contemporary history IUFM and Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1.Head of University for all, Université Jean Monnet, Saint-Etienne.

Historical context

Birth of cigarette paper manufacturing

The cigarette, as a reduced model of the cigar present in France from the Napoleonic era, began its career under the Restoration. The first cigarettes were wrapped in fine paper of Spanish origin, aptly known as "papelito". His brother Joseph also created a workshop for the production of cigarette paper in 1849, with the “Papier Bardou” brands and the “JH Bardou” signature.

The construction of the canal between Port Said and Suez and the inauguration in 1869 put Egypt in the spotlight and encouraged a veritable Egyptomania in France. From the 1870s, part of Joseph Bardou's production was shipped to the Middle East, particularly to Egypt, to wrap the fashionable tobacco, known as “Levantine tobacco”. Hence the idea of ​​giving the name "Le Nil" to one of the paper brands. In XXe century, Angoulême will be the capital of cigarette paper in France.

Daughter of the industrial revolution, cigarettes are growing with advertising. After starting with advertising - and rather timidly - the cigarette manufacturer, the state, and especially the private manufacturers of cigarette paper moved to advertising illustration like the Americans at the beginning of the 20th century.e century: the Job, Sabin, Bloch-Suez, Fruneau, Zig-Zag brands compete with each other in graphic ingenuity to attract customers. At Eugène Bardou, we hire the best pencils: Mucha, Tamagno, Stall, soon Cappiello who will immortalize his elephant in 1912. Here, it is Albert Guillaume who sets the tone.

Image Analysis

A smoky society

The designer Albert Guillaume (1873-1942) has already been illustrated by his satirical drawings (Robur aperitif with cinchona, Vichy Saint-Yorre water). He has the posters say that tobacco consumption goes beyond social categories, that it is a use that concerns the priest as well as the soldier, the bourgeois as well as the worker. In fact, since the 1880s, it has taken off. Essentially in the form of cigarettes: to the three billion "ready-made" cigarettes smoked in 1909 - approximate date of the drawing - we should add some thirty billion "hand-sewn", that is to say, made by the very fingers of the man. smoker and not manufactured in state factories. Each French person would then smoke twenty-five cigarettes per year, a figure to be multiplied by ten with the "hand-sewn". The very way of holding the cigarette between his lips suggests, according to Guillaume, a great intimacy between the man and his favorite product, as well as a comfortable and even arrogant satisfaction. It also accentuates a form of class "distinction": look at the bourgeois cigarette holder facing the proletarian butt.



Albert Guillaume, who works for many illustrated newspapers (Gil Blas, The laugh, The Butter Plate, Parisian life…) and draws with humor on texts by Courteline or Alphonse Allais, offers here an idealized image of the social body: between smokers reigns a harmony such that the smoke of their cigarettes makes up the words "The Nile". At the top and bottom of the ladder, the bourgeois in top hats rub shoulders with the officer, the midshipman, the abbot and even the worker, characterized by his cap and his "proletarian" smoke, both located in the center. The idea of ​​a truce in the class struggle emerges immediately from this cloud of smoke, like the famous Steinlen poster published a few years earlier and which proceeded to the exchange of fire between a bourgeois and a worker. (Impressionist scenes, Mothu and Doria). The Church-State quarrel seems distant, as does the questioning of the army in the context of the Dreyfus affair. Would smoke ensure social peace?

  • publicity
  • tobacco
  • Balzac (Honoré de)
  • Daumier (Honoré)
  • Sand (George)


Thierry LEFEBVRE, Didier NOURRISSON and Myriam TSIKOUNAS, When psychotropic drugs are advertised. One hundred and thirty years of promoting alcohol, tobacco, drugs, Paris, Editions du Nouveau Monde, 2010.Dominique LEJEUNE, The France of the Belle Époque. 1896-1914, Paris, Armand Colin, 1991.Didier NOURRISSON, Cigarette. Story of a tease, Paris, Payot, 2010.Denis PEAUCELLE, "Egyptian advertising", in Nile smoke, review of the Museum of cigarette paper, Angoulême, n ° 5, 1998.Denis PEAUCELLE, The hundred most beautiful images of rolling paper selected from the collections of the Musée du Papier in Angoulême, Paris, coll. "The hundred most beautiful images", Parimagine, 2009. Annie PEREZ, "Tobacco is displayed", in Flames and smoke, review of the Seita, n ° 81.

To cite this article

Didier NOURRISSON, "Le Nil cigarette paper"

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