The Pop History Dig

“Vines For Camels”
1934-1935

Tennis star Ellsworth Vines pitching Camel cigarettes in an October 1934 ‘Popular Science’ magazine ad.
Tennis star Ellsworth Vines pitching Camel cigarettes in an October 1934 ‘Popular Science’ magazine ad.
     In 1934, American tennis star Ellsworth Vines did some advertising for R.J Reynolds’ Camel cigarette brand.  He was 23 years old at the time, and was among the world’s best players.  The magazine ad at right shows Vines in a full-page endorsement for the cigarette in his tennis attire, depicted as smoking a cigarette at the end of a tennis match.  However, it is not known whether Vines in fact was a smoker, as endorsing stars often posed with cigarettes to do advertising.  This ad, in any case, appeared in Popular Science magazine October 1934, and perhaps other publications as well.

     As this is written in mid-2010, it appears especially odd and out of place to see a tennis player hawking cigarettes.  Something about all those tennis  “whites,” the game’s clean and healthy image – plus today’s media offerings of young and vital tennis players portrayed as epitomes of health.  What’s more, having a cigarette after an exhausting tennis match is probably the last thing you’d expect a tennis player in current times to actually do, or espouse for anyone else to do.  Yet, in the 1930s – and through the 1960s in fact – athletes endorsing tobacco products was not uncommon.  Tobacco companies recruited them as they did Hollywood film
stars and other celebrities.

Ellsworth Vines, tennis star, featured on the cover of Time magazine, August 1, 1932.
Ellsworth Vines, tennis star, featured on the cover of Time magazine, August 1, 1932.
     Sports star association with tobacco products began in the late 19th century, when tobacco companies started enclosing small trading cards of baseball and other sports players in their cigarette and cigar packets (see Honus Wagner story, for example ).  The cards generally included a photograph or artist rendering of the popular players of the day.  Movie stars and other famous people were also used on the trading cards.  Tobacco companies in the late 1920s and 1930s also began striking deals with actors and film studios, generally trying to associate their product with the famous and well known – those seen as trend setters and having an influence on the general public.  By then even some notable medical publications were enlisted for tobacco advertising.  In November 1933,  the Journal of the American Medical Association published its first advertisement for cigarettes – Chesterfield – a practice that continued for 20 years.  In 1933, Chesterfield also began running ads in the New York State Journal of Medicine.  So, in the context of that era, seeing a tennis star in the 1930s with cigarette in hand did not seem out of place.

Ellsworth Vines in action at Wimbledon in 1932.
Ellsworth Vines in action at Wimbledon in 1932.
     Ellsworth Vines was at the peak of his tennis career when he did the Camel cigarette ad shown above.  In August 1932, he was featured on the cover of Time magazine and had become a national celebrity.  The text from the October 1934 Camel cigarette ad featuring Vines, beginning with the headline, reads as follows:

You’ll enjoy this pleasing “Energizing Effect”

When you’ve used up your energy – smoke a Camel and notice how you feel your flow of natural energy snap back.

This experience, long known to Camel smokers, has now been confirmed by a famous New York research laboratory.  Camel smokers enjoy a positive “energizing effect” …a healthful and delightful release of natural, vibrant energy.  A typical Camel experience is this, Ellsworth Vines, Jr. speaking –

“Championship tennis is one of the fastest of modern sports.  After four or five sets, you sometimes feel that you just can’t take another step.  That’s when a Camel tastes like a million dollars.  Not only does the rich, mellow fragrance appeal to my taste, but Camels have a refreshing way of bringing my energy up to a higher level.  And I can smoke all the Camels I want, for they don’t interfere with my nerves.”

So, whenever you want a “lift,” just smoke a Camel.  You can smoke them steadily.  For the finer, MORE EXPENSIVE TOBACCOS in Camels never get on your nerves.

CAMEL’S Costlier Tobaccos never get on your Nerves.  “Get a Lift with a Camel!”

Jack Crawford and Ellsworth Vines (right) greeting one another after a match at Wimbledon, 1932.
Jack Crawford and Ellsworth Vines (right) greeting one another after a match at Wimbledon, 1932.
     Ellsworth Vines was the world’s No. 1 ranked player, or shared that ranking, in 1932, 1935, 1936 and 1937.  He began playing tennis as a young boy of about eight years old.  As a freshman at Huntington Park High School in Pasadena, California began attracting attention, including that of Mercer Beasley, famed coach of Tulane University, who helped him develop his game.  Tall and athletic, Vines had also played freshman basketball at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.  But tennis was his sport.  By 1930, he was playing in and winning amateur championships.  By the summer of1931, he had won every tournament he entered, including the U. S. championship at Forest Hills.  In 1932, on successive days at Wimbledon he beat Jack Crawford of Australia and Henry Wilfred (“Bunny”) Austin of England setting the tennis world abuzz with his talent.  He turned professional at the age of 22.  In 1934 and 1935 he won almost all the major pro events.  In 1934, he bested Bill Tilden, 47 matches to 26 on a head-to-head tour.  In a 1938 competition with Don Budge, he also prevailed 49 matches to 35, four years later.

Ellsworth Vines in play vs. Henri Cochet of France at Wimbledon, May 7, 1933.
Ellsworth Vines in play vs. Henri Cochet of France at Wimbledon, May 7, 1933.
     When Vines was at the height of his tennis powers in the 1930s, he was “nearly invincible,” according to some accounts.  “Hell, when Elly was on, you’d be lucky to get your racket on the ball once you served it,” tennis star Jack Kramer would later write of Ellsworth.  “What galleries at Wimbledon and elsewhere like most about Vines’s game is its blinding speed,” wrote Time magazine about his play in August 1932.  He had a “cannonball serve,” noted Time, “which a good many players frankly say they cannot see…”  Vines won his last big tournament in October 1939, the U.S. Pro Championship at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club.  The following year, in May 1940, at 28 years old, Vines played his last competitive tennis match.  Although he had some physical ailments at the time, and wanted to spend more time with his family, Vines had also developed an increasing passion for golf.  In fact, he became a professional golfer in 1942 and over the years had a number of high finishes in tournaments, including victories in the 1946 Massachusetts Open and 1955 Utah Open.  He also had a semi-final position in the 1951 PGA Cham- pionship.  Vines was twice in the top ten of golf money winnings, and according to another famous tennis player, Jack Kramer, “he was surely the best athlete ever in the two sports.”

Ellsworth Vines also appeared in this 1935 Camel cigarette ad (upper lefthand corner), which featured a range of athletes all endorsing the cigarette.
Ellsworth Vines also appeared in this 1935 Camel cigarette ad (upper lefthand corner), which featured a range of athletes all endorsing the cigarette.
     Ellsworth Vines also appeared in at least one other 1935 magazine ad for Camel cigarettes, this one depicting a range of athletes from different sports.  This ad, shown at left, is headlined, “We Asked Sports Champions,” who are then featured in a series of photographs, each offering a short sentence or two about why they like Camels.  Vines, shown in the upper lefthand portion of the ad, is quoted under the segment on “Flavor!” saying: “Camels taste like a million dollars!…That rich, mellow flavor appeals to my taste… And I actually feel a ‘lift’ from a Camel!”  Others in the ad, featured under respective Camel descriptors, are:  Helen Hicks, pro golfer under “Energy!”; Bill Miller, champion sculler, under “Value!”; Frank Copeland, billiard champion under “So Mild!”; and, finally, Harry “Stubby” Kruger, Olympic swimmer and water polo star, under “Healthy Nerves!,” who is photographed in Hollywood poolside where he is quoted saying: “I smoke a great deal and Camels don’t ever ruffle my nerves!”

     For additional stories on tobacco advertising at this website, see for example: “Al Jolson & Luckies, 1928-1940s” (Hollywood & cigarette advertising); “Babe Ruth & Tobacco, 1920s-1940s;” “Wayne For Camels,1950s” (actor John Wayne cigarette ads); “Gifford For Luckies, 1961-1962″ (Frank Gifford, football star, in cigarette ad); and, “21 of 23 Giants…Smoke Camels” (promotional ad using 1933 World Series champs).  See also the “Madison Avenue” category page for other stories on advertising, or go to the Archive for additional story choices.  Thanks for visiting.  – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 19 July 2010
Last Update: 15 November 2012
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Vines for Camels, 1934-1935,”
PopHistoryDig.com, July 18, 2010.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Ellsworth Vines depicted on a 1933 “Sport Kings” trading card from Goudey Gum Co.
Ellsworth Vines depicted on a 1933 “Sport Kings” trading card from Goudey Gum Co.
Ad: “Get a Lift With a Camel!,” Popular Science, October 1934, from, ModernMechanix.com, August 6, 2007.

Ellsworth Vines,” Wikipedia.org.

Sport: Davis Cup,” Time, Monday, August 1, 1932.

Henry R. Ilsley, “Vines Tops Allison in Three-Set Final; Wins in Newport Singles for Second Year in Row…,”New York Times, Sunday, August 21, 1932, p. S-1.

Allison Danzig, “12,000 See Vines Vanquish Cochet; French Ace Defeated, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, in His First U.S. Appearance As a Pro,” New York Times, Tuesday, February 20, 1934, Sports, p. 27.

Allison Danzig, “Twenty Service’ Aces Are Scored by Vines in Routing Perry on Garden Court; Vines Wins Match in Straight Sets,” New York Times, Tuesday, May 4, 1937, p. 33.

Jack Kramer with Frank Deford, The Game, My 40 Years in Tennis, 1979.

Scott Olstad, “A Brief History Of Cigarette Advertising,” Time, Monday, June 15, 2009.

“Ellsworth Vines,” French website.

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