Ashtray Collection

Ashtray Collection Finding Aid.pdf

Ashtray Collection Finding Aid 

Smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, along with other forms of tobacco use was once consider the norm in American society. In the 1960s, more than 43 percent of Americans smoked and businesses such as hotels, bars, and restaurants, not to mention such surprising institutions as hospitals, all accommodated those with a smoking habit. Matchbooks and ashtrays were provided for the clientele of these establishments and also served as a convenient form of advertising. Customized ashtrays and matchbooks bearing the names, logos, addressees, and contact information for the businesses providing them were common promotional items.

As the harmful effects of tobacco use became better known, however, and efforts to alert smokers of the health risks associated with both smoking and secondhand smoke increased, smoking rates began to decline in America. By 2018, the number of adults who smoked decreased 68% and more stringent legislation outlawed smoking indoors in New York State. A more health-conscious population combined with this legislation lead to a diminishing number of businesses allocating a portion of their budgets for the production of customized smoking paraphernalia. It is now rare to encounter an ashtray bearing a businesses’ name for advertising purposes and the items in this collection are truly artifacts from a less enlightened period of American history, at least as far as maintaining a healthy lifestyle is concerned.

This collections contains glass, ceramic, and metal ashtrays produced by business and organizations for advertising purposes and for the use of their clientele. The businesses responsible for these objects include hotels, bars, restaurants, political parties, supermarkets, auto mechanics, fire departments, public utilities, real estate agents, and more.