In addition, historic preservation will be the topic when Anna
Margaret Burris speaks at the Kiwanis luncheon at Rusty's on May 19.
The mural project is a story in itself.
Contributed by Christopher Elam
of Main Street Lincoln
It's not a stretch to say that Lincoln is well on its way to
being a mural town. We have historic ones, repainted ones and newly
conceived ones. Murals that used to function primarily as
advertisements now beautify our city as original art pieces.
Earlier this spring, a visiting architect from the Illinois
Historic Preservation Agency discovered one such original piece -- a
"ghost mural" -- on the alley side of the Vintage Fare building.
Ghost murals have nothing to do with ghosts; they are old
remnants of historic paintings and are a common sight around
This one in particular is very faint and difficult to discern,
but with a little gentle cleaning it would probably reveal itself
quickly. Should its colors be revealed, it would be one of the
oldest murals to grace Lincoln's brick walls.
In a spirit of historic preservation, Main Street Lincoln is
hosting a group of volunteer cleaners on May 23 to reveal the
historic mural, which depicts an 1890s frog logo for Greenback
"Greenback Tobacco" was a brand of the Marburg Bros. Tobacco
Processing Co. from that time. This particular brand used "plug cut"
North Carolinian tobacco and was processed in Baltimore, Md. With
regard to the iconic Greenback frog, the pack of loose leaf reads:
"Don't attribute the great success of 'Greenback' to the popular
superstition that the 'Frog' is a lucky emblem."
However great its success was, Marburg, like most small tobacco
companies of the day, was swallowed up in the early 1900s by
American Tobacco Co., which owned nearly 92 percent of the world's
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With a few hours worth of Internet antique shopping, one can find
advertisement cards for Greenback going for nearly $200, with each
image unique -- one with a twirling dancer; another depicting an
elderly couple cuddled up in a twin bed, very much in love; and yet
another is Greenback money, surely a predecessor to Marlboro miles
and Camel cash! One wonders what these images have to do with
smoking tobacco, but perhaps advertising hasn't changed all that
much over the years.
In some of the largest collections of historical cigarette
advertisements, Marburg Bros. is nowhere listed, leading one to
believe that Greenback Tobacco and its corresponding company were
actually a blip in the history of American tobacco. Isn't it very
odd that someone in Lincoln's history decided that a Greenback
Tobacco advertising sign should be painted here? Maybe there is a
little luck in that Greenback frog -- Lincoln may quite possibly
have in its portfolio a very rare original example of early tobacco
So, what is "Greenbacks for Greenback" all about? Main Street
Lincoln would like to offer "Main Street Money" (good at all
participating downtown stores) as an incentive to anyone who can
uncover useful information about the mural. The organization would
like to put together a short history about the painting, including
the date it was painted, who painted it and perhaps even early
pictures that could be posted at the mural's wall.
If you have any valuable insights, please contact Main Street
Lincoln at 732-2929 or
The mural has painted on the wall: "Smoke Greenback Tobacco." The
rest has not been deciphered.
[Text from file received from
Main Street Lincoln;
article by Christopher Elam, design committee chair]