The Navy Cut Tobacco was brand of cigarettes manufactured by the Imperial Tobacco Group formerly John Player & Sons in Nottingham, England. Particularly popular in Britain and Germany in the late 19th century and early part of the 20th century, the packet boasted a distinctive logo of a smoking sailor in a 'Navy Cut' cap.
The phrase "Navy Cut” was supposed to have originated from the habit of sailors taking a mixture of tobacco leaves and binding them with string or twine. The tobacco would then mature under pressure and the sailor could then dispense the tobacco by slicing off a "cut”.
Wether or not the origin of the name was legitimate or simply a clever, early marketing ploy, the brand became extremely popular in the armed services and the merchant navy across the world.
A large part of the early branding centred around the image of the sailor known as "Hero" because of the name on his hat band. It was first used in 1883 and the lifebuoy was added five years later. The sailor images were an 1891 artists concept registered for Chester-based William Parkins and Co for their "Jack Glory" brand. Behind the sailor are two ships. The one on the left is thought to be HMS Britannia and the one on the right HMS Dreadnought or maybe HMS Hero.
As time went by the image of the sailor changed as it sometimes had a beard and other times he was clean shaven. In 1927 "Hero" was standardised on a 1905 version. As part of the 1927 marketing campaign John Player and Sons commissioned an oil painting Head of a Sailor by Arthur David McCormick.
Originally available in various sized hinged tins, the packaging gradually changed to a cardboard container with a four sided sliding tray like the classic matchbox design. In the early 1950’s this design evolved into the flip top design we see today.
The Navy Cut brand ceased in 2016.
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