A cigarette packet and matchbox dated from more than 100 years ago has recently been discovered at Broad Street Post Office during a refurbishment of a ceiling following a water leak.
At first glance the cardboard find may seem uninteresting, but it caught the attention of the employee who found it when he realised that there were several names and the date 27 February 1909 written quite literally, “on the back of a cigarette packet.”
The box appears to have nine names written on it, but some of the writing is very hard to decipher. It is believed that one of the names written on the box is F Le Gros – the name of the sub-post master responsible for Millbrook post office from 1903. There is also a surname of an individual named ‘Matson’, a surname that is detailed on several photographs of Jersey Post employees from that era.
David McGrath, Head of Marketing at Jersey Post said, “It may seem like just a cigarette packet, but this tiny item is full of history that is so important to preserve, both from a postal service perspective, but also from a community and society angle. Given that some of the names appear to match historical records of postal service employees from that era, we believe that the item may have been placed in the ceiling as a record of employees from that year, perhaps those involved with creating the post office at the front of Broad Street which was opened later in 1909. We would really love to speak to anyone who knows anything about one, or more, of the names written on the box.”
Postal Services in 1908
Naturally, the postal services provided to Islanders in 1909 were significantly different to that which is offered today. In the early 1900’s, Head Postmaster Oscar Filleul Mourant ran the postal service operation from behind the scenes at Broad Street. The post office at the front of Broad Street as we know it today was introduced later in 1909, until that point, the nearest post office was located in
Conway Street. Oscar Mourant played an integral role in the island’s postal service, keeping it very much alive during the second world war; an act which earnt him an MBE in 1946.
The cigarette packet
The cigarette packet depicts the brand Player's Navy Cut, which was manufactured by John Player & Sons in Nottingham. This was a brand of cigarettes that were particularly popular in Britain and Germany in the late 19th century and early part of the 20th century. The packet has the distinctive logo of a smoking sailor in a 'Navy Cut' cap. It is believed that the phrase "Navy Cut" 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".
The packet will be passed to Jersey Heritage and placed in their archive. Anyone with any knowledge of the names should contact the Jersey Post marketing team on 616621, or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.