The ABC of Sport – Cigarette Cards from the 1920s, Digital Downloads

I love vintage cigarette cards! Even as a non-smoker, I really enjoy the illustrations and the humor they contain.  

Cigarette cards date back to 1875 in the U.S., used as advertising, and to help stiffen the package of cigarettes. Each card is numbered on the back, and were typically created in sets of 25 cards or 50 cards, although some sets of 100 cards were also produced. Card themes varied from popular actresses, film stars and models, to “sporters” (baseball, football and cricket), nature, city views,  as well as military heroes and uniforms. Did you know that sports and military historians study these cards for details on uniform design? That’s pretty cool!

Cigarette cards quickly became a favorite among collectors. Some individual cards are very valuable – one having sold for $2.8 million!

I have a collection of cigarette cards in many different themes. Here is a fun alphabet set from the 1920s called the “A B C of Sport” from the Ogden’s Cigarettes company – I thought you might enjoy them. Because these cards are now in the public domain, go ahead and save these digital images and feel free to use them in your scrapbooks, journals, and other altered art or collage work – either in digital format or print them and use the printed copies.

A B C of Sport

A is the ANGLER whose patience is great;
(The bottle that peeps from his pocket is bait!)
A jolly good sort on the whole, but I wish he
Would see that his tales were a little less fishy!


B is the BOXER (of course, when you box
You must be prepared to receive a few shocks!),
Who steps in the ring feeling fit as a fiddle…
And two minutes later wakes up in the middle!


C is the CRICKETER, baleful and bitter…
(I fancy the fellow has just missed a “sitter,”
After making his seventeenth “duck” in succession –
Which somewhat explains his unpleasant expression!)


D is the DEERSTALKER (sometimes, fear,
An “a” should be used in the spelling of “dear”!),
Who crawls up a hill in the hope of a stag,
And swelters for hours impaled on a crag.


E is the expert who chivvies the ELK
(A sport more exhausting than Wheedling the Whelk!)
Which lures him to scale some precipitous alp
Before it consents to surrender its scalp.


F is for FOOTBALL (yes, “Rugger,” of course!),
A game which is played without any remorse.
Should a foeman fall down with his face in the grass,
Be sure that you stamp it well in as you pass!


G is the GOLFER, who is right off his putting,
And past the mild stage of “pooh-poohing” and “tutting” –
His partner appears to be trying with fair words
To dam, so to speak, the wild torrent of swearwords!


H is the HOCKEY exponent, who grins
When he misses the ball but gets home on your shins.
As protest is vain, and the shins beyond mending,
You just have to wait till you catch him -er- bending!


I is an IMBECILE, hopeful as yet
Of finding a house that is CHEAP and to LET!
(The agents he sees are amused at his whim,
And offer small FLATS, as more fitting for him!)


J is the JOCKEY (cross-country, of course!)
Who passes the winning-post after his horse –
The steed had a notion, abrupt but intense,
To see what it felt like to “sit on the fence”!


K is the KUDOS (and also the KICK)
Obtained by the tipster whose tip doesn’t “click”!
(Humanity revels in putting its shirt
On a quadruped hopefully labelled “a cert.”)


L is LACROSSE, a Canadian pastime
Which calls for a great deal of sprinting in fast time.
(Exponents afflicted with acute adiposity
Are content to proceed with a slower velocity!)


M is the MOTORIST, scathingly graphic
Whenever he mentions congestion of traffic.
(The roads have no sooner been cleared of equestrians
Than they’re all chock-a-block with pernicious pedestrians!)


N is the nondescript player of NAP,
A very industrious, taking young chap.
(He tries to give Chance a leg up, I believe,
By keeping a jolly old ace up his sleeve!)


O is the ‘OUNDER OF OTTERS (the rivulets
Otters frequent give me shivers, or shivulets!)
For hours this sportsman will cheerily tramp
In wet river beds till he’s thoroughly damp.


P is the PINGER (or PONGER), who chases
The ball under sideboards and similar places.
It’s a million to one that your hostess’s best
Bit of Wedgewood will go irretrievably West!


Q is that stout-hearted sportsman, the QUOITER,
Who plays on board ship in a storm till adroiter.
(Of course, the excitement is simply terrific
When a cyclone is churning the so-called Pacific!)


R is the RUNNER who tears round the track
Like a human express – when the fellow’s a “crack.”
He hustles from pillar to post very speedily.
And gathers in trophies and prizes most greedily.


S is the SKI-ER… to Switzerland go
And watch him embedding all over the snow!
When really adept his life becomes racier,
For then he is liable to butt a small glacier.


T is for TENNIS… unless you are agile,
And really stout-hearted, and not very fragile,
And clever at dodging, and quick on your feet,
You’d better avoid playing with the elite!


U is the UMPIRE, whose fateful decision
Is greeted with obloquy, mud and derision.
(He sometimes takes refuge inside the Pavilion
When the threats of the “gate” grow a trifle vermilion!)


V is a versatile varlet named Villikins,
The Heavyweight Champion of Tooting at Spillikins;
At Halma and Snap he has never been beaten
Since he acted as Captain of both when at Eton.


W clearly refers to the WRESTLER
A man who becomes an inveterate “nestler.”
(Embrace your opponent, away with estrangements,
And hug till you’ve ruined his breathing arrangements!)


X is a prefix that champions use
When to laurels they finally made their adieus;
It means that a man once undoubtedly “classy”
By effluxion of time has become somewhat passe!


Y is for YACHTING, and Z is the ZEST
With which you embark. (For a tar it is best
To be fitted at birth with a very superior
Stable, cast-iron, well-anchored interior!)


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