Boston Public Library

Boston Matchcovers Collection

The bookmatch was patented in the 1890s by John Pusey, a Pennsylvania patent lawyer, who sold the patent outright to the Diamond Match Company in 1896. Soon after the sale, the bookmatch became hugely popular as an advertising giveaway and the first crudely printed example of its use appeared in 1898--a matchcover designed to promote a New York presentation of the Mendelssohn Opera Company. Several hundred matchcovers were produced and a single example, complete with misspellings and typographic errors, is held in the Diamond Match Company collection.

The Diamond Match Company's first big order, 10 million booklets for the Pabst Brewing Company, is said to have started the bookmatch industry. The popularity of matchcovers grew with the spread of public smoking. Matchbooks were placed on tables for diners in restaurants, hotels, and dining cars on the railway. Beyond their use advertising dining venues and commercial products, promotional bookmatches were often used in political campaigns.

Bookmatches reflect the artistic and advertising styles of the day. The Boston Public Library's collection dates from approximately 1940 to 1975.

Locations in this Collection: