Cigarette Pack Collectors' Association

                                             Head Play Cigarettes

      One of the most innovative cigarette makers of the 1920s and 1930s  was The Axton-Fisher Tobacco Company of Louisville Kentucky. Company president ,Woodford Axton introduced the first mass marketed menthol cigarette after he purchased the rights for an obscure brand called Spuds from Lloyd "Spud" Hughes in 1926. He also brought to market one of the earliest and most successful "ten-centers" at the bottom of the Great Depression. It was called Twenty Grand and was named after one of his favorite thoroughbred horses. This was in an era when all the so called standard brands such as Lucky Strike and Camels sold for fifteen cents and the nickel savings was enough to get smokers to switch. Within a short period of time, the Axton-Fisher plant in Louisville was running around the clock to keep up with the demand for Twenty Grands.

  However, it was the introduction of a brand called Head Play (which was named after another famous race horse in his stable) that is perhaps best remembered by anyone who lived through those dark economic times. Taking advantage of a loophole in the revenue code which taxed cigarettes by the number in each pack, Axton packaged five 11 1/2" cigarettes in a uniquely designed slide and shell box which included slightly perforated lines on the front indicating where the buyer could cut the box in three places and wind up with twenty cigarettes.  While the front of the box was adorned with four identical portraits of the famous horse, the back showed a picture of him running away from all "the others" at the finish line of the 1933 Preakness. 

   The government acted quickly to close the loophole and ruled that cigarettes were to be taxed by weight rather than the number per pack going forward but the memory of the novelty of smoking a foot long cigarette remains with many who were in their early teens at the time. 






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