Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bambino Tobacco

Babe Ruth lent his name to dozens of products during his lifetime: Babe Ruth Ice Cream, Babe Ruth Home Run Shoes, Babe Ruth Caps, Babe Ruth Union Suits, and so many more. The slugger could sell most anything.



Bambino Tobacco was no different than the rest of these products, except that Ruth did not receive a penny from the sale of these tins.

At the time the tobacco was sold (more about that later), the nickname "Bambino" was synonymous with Babe Ruth. And the product's image of a silhouetted batter was clearly based on the famous slugger's classic swing.

But Bailey Bros., the makers of Bambino Tobacco, never made an agreement with the Babe and got away with the implied endorsement without having to reimburse Ruth.

Scour auction sites for "Bambino Tobacco" and you'll find that numerous vintage tobacco tins bearing his nickname and silhouette have been sold in recent years. When I ran a check in early 2015, auction prices ranged from less than $600 for one in poor condition to a nearly pristine tin that sold for over $5,000.

While these auction sites were eager to sell the collectables, none had a clue as to the date that the product was made:
So, when was "Bambino Tobacco" available?

The earliest advertisement I could find was in the Baltimore Sun of April 30, 1922:

The ads stopped less than a year later, the latest I could readily track down being found in this advertisement for Peoples Drug Stores in the Washington Post of April 8, 1923 (see lower right-hand corner for mention of Bambino):

By the December of 1923, Bailey Bros. had filed for bankruptcy and Bambino Tobacco was no more.


  1. Interesting. Lends one to wonder how many other ballplayers of the time had unknowingly "endorsed" products.

  2. Another fascinating bit of research, Tom! There are a few analogous items from the world of tabletop baseball -- two different games called "Bambino," one from the early 1930s, the other from 1946, neither mentioning the actual Babe by name or image, plus "Bam-Bee-No" from the early 1920s, which did carry an approving quote purportedly by the Babe in its print advertisements while not mentioning him anywhere in the game itself... "Wiry Dan's Electric Baseball Game" from around 1950 sported a cartoon of a player with an unmistakable likeness to Joe DiMaggio, and the 1961 version of "Peg Baseball" features a batter who looks suspiciously like Ted Williams, right down to his number 9...