Edited and designed by Monte Beauchamp
Chronicle Books, 272 pgs
By Carolyn Tripp
Gone are the days where you would saunter into a crowded local on Friday, choke a little on the peanut-butter fog, and order a drink from your favourite barkeep. This particular drink slinger also had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth (both disillusioned and care-worn!). The most important thing to note here, however, is certainly the cigarette.
As bans were imposed and the smoke started to lift in bars and pubs across many a North American city, matchbooks from those venues started to disappear. Businesses interested in other forms of advertising ceased to produce them, and in so doing, the general public lost a wealth of miniature creativity, one square inch at a time.
Despite infrequent appearances under the public eye, these tiny wonders are still being produced. But editor and designer Monte Beauchamp figured he’d waste no time making certain that the classic babies weren’t thrown out with the bath water.
Striking Images is a fat little number jammed with a bit of text and a lot of colour prints dating from war-time adverts to the jazz and skin bars of the 50’s and 60’s. Increasing its value exponentially is the amount of political incorrectness one can find in its covers.
For example, do you remember that part in Ghostworld where Enid brings that Coon Chicken poster to art class in all of its unapologetic and terribly offensive wonder? Well, Beauchamp has managed to include a matchbook from the days where people thought blackface was downright hilarious. Graham and Bur must be turning in their graves at the thought logos from their beloved restaurant chain being exemplary of the worst kind of passive-aggressive racial prejudice.
Striking Images also includes government-issued warnings about venereal disease, typically directed at touring American troops. As if that weren’t enough for a chuckle, there are wonderful examples included of ladies trolling for some sweet uniformed action. While I’m certain the United States government wasn’t too far off the mark about the goings-on of Fleet Week, it’s interesting to note the insistence of the supposed aggressor. Who knew such tiny bits of cardboard could be such effective cultural barometers? Posterity-wise, anyway.
Apart from the political and offensive, there are also quite a few treats on the purely illustrative side of the matchbook coin, including covers from Pennzoil and the Canadian National Railway. If you’re a fan of cute topless girls (however small) they’re here as well with discretely placed flowers and palm leaves for your enjoyment.
Beauchamp has very much proven his collecting chops outside of his typically exemplary BLAB! duties. This is definitely something that should find a place on your bookshelf, even if you’re not that into smoky pub nostalgia.