American Cultural Influence on Norwegian Cigarettes, part 1

When it comes to cigarettes, symbols of American culture pop up everywhere, sometimes in the strangest of ways. My grandfather’s two Norwegian cigarette packs – a Tiedemanns Teddy and a South State Specially Toasted – tell intriguing tales of the ties binding Norway and America.

Short of the Vikings’ discovery of the New World several centuries before Columbus, not much about Scandinavia appears in your standard US History textbook. You might find some all-too-brief praise for the Danish resistance in WWII, which protected nearly all Danish Jews from the Nazi terror. (Read further: The US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s “Rescue in Denmark.”)

Swedish culture made it to America in the form of ABBA’s timeless pop music (revived by the great Meryl Streep in the 2008 film Mamma Mia!). Norway emerges on the American scene at least once a year – sometimes stirring more than a bit of controversy – announcing the Nobel Peace Prize.

But these cigarettes tell a richer story. First up is Tiedemanns Teddy. Tiedemanns was founded way back in 1778 and thrived in the Oslo tobacco boom of the early 20th century. (See ThorNews’ Up in Smoke: Norwegian Tobacco History.)

Theodore Roosevelt aboard the "Queen Maud" in Norway
Theodore Roosevelt aboard the “Queen Maud” in Norway. 1910 Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site. Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library. Dickinson State University.

A few years after US President Teddy Roosevelt visited Norway in 1910 to claim his Oslo Peace Prize, Tiedemanns introduced the “Teddy” brand. According to Keri Youngstrand’s post on the Teddy Roosevel Center, the American President especially enjoyed the newly-enthroned King Haakon and his family, especially Little Prince Olav.

Some of the packs bore an image (see below) of the Bull Moose himself. An image from the Norsk Folkemuseum shows the slogan “Tiedemanns Teddy Allemans Venn” (Tiedemanns Teddy Everyone’s Friend).

Roosevelt had a way of looking friendly and ready for a fight at the same time, and the classic Teddy cigarette image captures him wonderfully. Cigarette in hand – after all, it is a cigarette pack! – the President seems to be welcoming Norway to taste the cigarettes. He’s all smiles with that wide grin and fashionable monocle. But be careful that you don’t breathe a word against their flavor. If you do, his fist is already in a ball and he’s got a mean right hook!

*Check back later this week for Part Two, featuring South State Cigarettes and the Deep River Boys!

Tiedemanns Teddy, from the Norsk Folkmuseum in Oslo, Noway
Tiedemanns Teddy, from the Norsk Folkmuseum in Oslo, Noway

Shipka Memorial

Shpika 1877 Cigarette Pack
Russian Jewish Soldiers YIVO
Benjamin Freiman (right) from Marijampol (now in Lithuania) and another Jewish soldier in the tsarist army, Kronstadt, Russia, ca. 1890s. Photograph by U. Ia. Iakovlev (YIVO)

Family lore has it that two of the Fruman boys, my great-great-great uncles, fought in the Tsarist Army. By law, every Jewish community had to send a percentage of its boys to the army. Life  was brutal, and remaining Jewish was a challenge, especially when military service took the men far from any Jewish communities. The Fruman boys, I’m told, fought as far afield as Manchuria and Korea – we think they originally hailed from Yekaterinaslav (Diepropetrovsk) in Ukraine. While defending and growing the Empire, these soldiers built nationalist ideologies that helped fuel the political and economic modernization of Eurasia.


Later generations fondly recalled the great achievements of their military ancestors. Bulgarians erected the Monument to Freedom along Shipka Pass to commemorate the Russian soldiers who defended Bulgaria from their Turkish overlords in 1877. By holding the Turks away from this critical passage through the Balkan Mountains, the soldiers helped the rest of the army press the advantage all the way to Constantinople. Despite British opposition, the Russians succeeded in creating an autonomous state in Bulgaria supported by Russian military might and political power.

The Defence of the Eagle’s Nest in the Battle for Shipka Pass.
Alexey Nikola’evich Popov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Depicted on a Russian cigarette pack, the impressive Monument to Freedom matches the immensity of the battle, in which some 7,500 defenders (5,500 Bulgarians and 2,000 Russians) held the pass against 38,000 Turks. The structure resembles a medieval Bulgarian fortress. At 31.5m high, it towers over the surrounding fields and trees that cover the mountain. At its base, a bold bronze lion – symbol of Bulgarian sovereignty – guards the gate against would-be oppressors.

Shipka Memorial, by Klearchos Kapoutis [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
At the center of the fortress sits a marble sarcophagus, containing some of the defenders’ remains, resting on the backs of four lions. Two stone soldiers – a Russian and a Bulgarian – stand side-by-side guarding the sarcophagus for eternity. (See some beautiful photographs of the monument at



JONNY Spielt Auf – Cigarettes Against Hitler

Jonny Cigarettes - Austria

The end of World War I broke the Austro-Hungarian Empire apart and years of political and economic disarray, culminating in the Anschluss of 1938 that united Austria with Nazi Germany.

But this period also witnessed great cultural growth. Austrian respect for the arts was sufficiently strong for a ground-breaking opera, Jonny Spielt Auf (Jonny Plays), to earn its own cigarette brand, known simply as Jonny. Of course, back when Jonny hit the scenes in 1925-1926, you could probably still smoke in the opera house. Today, most opera-goers have to stand outside the building to smoke, so they’d do better checking out the opera on YouTube.

Czech-Austrian composer Ernst Křenek incorporated Jazz and Blues elements into the score, along with an assortment of mundane sounds like loudspeakers and alarm bells. Not your typical Mozart and Haydn composition – Křenek wanted to infuse Austrian culture with energy from the New World.

Cover of Musical Score for Jonny Spiel Auf. By graphic design: Arthur Stadler (1892-1937) (Andrea1903) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By graphic design: Arthur Stadler (1892-1937) (Andrea1903) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Continue reading JONNY Spielt Auf – Cigarettes Against Hitler

The Kaiser in Arab Headdress

Senoussi Cigarettes

One snowy morning in World War I Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm II was fed up with the cold and the seemingly-stalemated war. “Which of our allies has the warmest climate? Where does Mexico stand?”

“It seems,” replied his American Affairs adviser, “as though our negotiations with El Guapo fell through after Ned Nederlander shot one of our agents.”

“What!?! That shrimp from Hollywood… I didn’t know he was an American agent.”

“Nederlander’s friends, Lucky Day and Dusty Bottoms, also American agents from Hollywood, then proceeded to wipe out El Guapo’s forces and stole all the rifles and tequila we’d sent them.”

“We paid good money for those guns. Oh well, just like the Western Front. Who else has a warm climate?”

“Your highness’ friends among the Senoussi brotherhood are still fighting the Italians in the Libyan desert. A little dry, but warm.”

“Sounds delightful! We must visit them immediately.”

His advisers were all too happy to shed their winter uniforms, so they visited the Grand Senoussi. In diplomatic fashion, donned the flowing red-and-white capes and rimmed headdresses of their allies. For a final touch, they armed themselves with long Arab rifles and posed for a photo-op.

Senoussi Cigarettes

Years after the war collapsed and Hitler came and went, a lonely student of history in Berlin named Franz Kopfschmuck took a job as a graphic designer in a Berlin tobacco company. Charged with finding a cigarette brand name that recalled a happier era in German culture, he sifted through his textbooks until he stumbled upon the Senoussi revolt against the Italians in World War I.

Read about the Senoussi Campaign.

Intrigued, he couldn’t recall any notes about the Senoussi in General March’s lauded History of the World War. Reading further, he discovered that the Kaiser had encouraged the Senoussi – a political movement begun decades earlier as a Sufi brotherhood – to fight the Italians. On one of the Entente’s few Arab World achievements, the Senoussi revolt had helped keep untold numbers of British and French troops tied up in North Africa for much of the war. Some years later, the Senoussi even gained sovereignty over Libya! And to think Germany had helped them along the way.

Senussi going to fight English in Egypt (circa 1915).
Senussi going to fight English in Egypt (circa 1915). By Bain News Service, publisher [Public domain], Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons.
At the end of the chapter, Franz stumbled across one of the photographs from the photo-op. With some artistic flair, he transformed the black-and-white photograph into a stunning cigarette cover, which graces the pack displayed above. Pleased by his work, the cigarette manufacturer gave Franz enough pay to complete his studies, though he soon disappeared into the thick of German academia.

Disclaimer: I like to write fiction occasionally, though the impact of the Senoussi Campaign in WWI is a matter of historical record. I’m grateful to the designer of this German pack – perhaps his name really was Franz – for encouraging me to learn more about the Libyan front in the war that was supposed to end all wars.

For further reading on the Senoussi campaign, check out:

(1) David Olusoga’s The World’s War (Head of Zeus, 1914).

(2) Hew Strachan’s The First World War: Volume 1: To Arms (OUP, Oxford, 2001).