Contentnea cigarettes were produced by the Erwin-Nadal Company in Wilson, North Carolina, a subsidiary of the American Tobacco Company from 1909-1910….maybe (the Erwin-Nadal Company is not listed in the 1908-1909 Wilson City Directory but the American Tobacco Company is, on the corner of Mercer and Jones Streets). At least that is when they carried the T209 tobacco cards, a series that features players from the Carolinas and Virginia minor league teams.
The first series was thought to be issued in late 1909 and had color lithographs of the players. This series of tobacco cards depicted players from the class D minor league Carolina Association (Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston Salem, Anderson, Greenville, and Spartanburg) and the Eastern Carolina League (Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Raleigh, Rocky Mount, Wilmington, and Wilson). The backs of the cards also listed that there would be players from the class C Virginia League, but it was not included in the set. These cards were pretty hastily put out in order to get in on a collecting craze. There were a few mistakes, such as some players were in jerseys from a different team than indicated on the card and some players didn’t even appear to exist (according to records). There were 16 cards in the set and the Wilson Tobacconists had the most players represented at five. This was probably because Wilson had won the 1909 Eastern Carolina League championship, had high attendance at their games and the Erwin-Nadal company was based there.
The second series are black and white photographs with some depicting portraits and others, action poses. This series is much larger than the first and the number is not agreed upon, but it is around 224. Thirty of the players went on to the major leagues. One player that they missed was a Native American named Jim Thorpe, the greatest athlete of the age and he pitched for the Rocky Mount Railroaders in 1910, which is a really awesome fact to learn. There was also a uniquely strange card made of a super- fan from Wilson who dressed like Uncle Sam. He was named Benjamin Thompson and was a tobacco farmer, civil war veteran and local character.
Michael Peich & Tim Newcomb
Old Cardboard (Issue #27, Spring 2012)