Card of the Day - 2023-04-17

player famous beauties
John Player [tobacco : UK] "Famous Beauties" - large - home issue (September 1937) 11/25 - P644-198 : P72-95 : P/86A (RB.17/86A)

The link to Kings Lynn here was towards the top of the reverse, for Captain John Smith, the English settler that she pleaded to save is often said to have been born in that town, but he was actually born at Heacham and moved to Kings Lynn to apprentice as soon as he was of age.

He returned home and wrote his story, more than once. In the first version she does not appear at all, and by the later versions she was in love with him.  There seems a bit of doubt to the truth of the story, for, as it says on the card, she was just twelve years old when she defended him and spared his life. And he was in his late twenties. The oddest thing is that perhaps she did love him, or things about him, for when she was eighteen, in 1614,  she married a fellow Heacham resident, also called John, but John Rolfe, and he was also older - eleven years her senior. He had also been married for two years, though his wife and child had died four years earlier in Bermuda. The marriage must have been partially successful, for they had a son Thomas. In 1616 they all travelled to England. However whilst they were waiting to sail back the following year Pocahontas, who had taken an English name of Rebecca, sickened and died. Her son was also sick, so only John Rolfe sailed home. Though he did appoint a guardian to look after the child if he survived. John Rolfe never saw his son again. He reached home and remarried a few years later, and they had a daughter. In 1622 John Rolfe died, or was killed. Nobody really knows.  

Thomas did get to America but only when he was older. He married whilst out there and had a daughter. She died some years later in childbirth. Nobody seems to know where Thomas went then. 

This set was only issued in the large format. It first appears in our John Player Reference Book (RB.17) where it is described as : 

Large cards from drawings by A. K. MacDonald. Fronts in colour. Backs grey with descriptive text. Issued September 1937. 
A) Home issue with I.T.C. Clause
B) Channel Islands issue without I.T.C. Clause

This is shortened by the time of our original World Tobacco Issues Index, to simply "Lg. Nd. (25) see RB.17/86A" - and for our updated version still more, to just "Lg. Nd. (25)". 

Tracking down our artist is proving a quest. The British Museum even admits that details are unknown, has no date of death, and seems to only know that they "Designed cigarette-cards for John Player and Sons".

However a bit of a hunt has turned up a bit more. We now know he was called Alistair K MacDonald, and he was born in 1880 in Buenos Aires. He then relocated to the Isle of Skye and regarded himself as a Scottish artist. You are most likely to find his works as book illustrations and magazine covers, for he mainly worked on a smaller scale.

In the 1920s he somehow became involved with Cunard, and they commissioned him to produce a range of original works for on board items, and stationery, including dinner menus. 

He was most fond of depicting beautiful ethereal ladies, often clad in the thinnest gossamer, in a kind of adult fairy tale style. Indeed one of his most famous series of illustrations was for a series of stories in the Strand magazine, later published as a book by Anthony Armstrong, called "The Naughty Princess" and published in 1945. He spoke of them as being "a wee bit saucy", which is rather fun, and shows his Scottishness. Another favourite item was a drawing for a magazine entitled "Nothing to Wear" . This page also contains links to some of his other artwork, dare I say, at the bottom...

He died in 1948.