According to the New York Times, “Close Cover Before Striking” is the most printed phrase in the history of the printed word. Perhaps you remember the days when every business, it seemed, advertised its services via free matchbooks bearing a logo, address, and phone number. Matchbook cover advertising rose and fell with the popularity of cigarette smoking, and was all but obliterated by the advent of the cheap, disposable Bic lighter in the early 1970s. Although customized matchboxes have made a bit of a comeback recently (think high-end restaurants), the heyday for the matchbook cover remains in the past, charting a visual history of midcentury American culture and commerce.
Pepperdine University Libraries are pleased to announce the Eric Wienberg Collection of Malibu Matchbooks and Postcards, the latest addition to the Pepperdine Digital Collections. This online collection includes over forty matchbook covers that chronicle the history of business establishments and sites in Malibu and the surrounding area. The collection covers a period between the 1930s and the 1980s, and features matchbook covers from restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, motels, stores, and other businesses from Malibu, Topanga, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Culver City, and Venice Beach. The matchbooks and postcards were collected and generously donated by former Malibu resident Eric Wienberg.
The digital collection allows users to view both sides of the matchbook cover, either individually or side-by-side. Many businesses used the underside of the cover for hidden images or jokes, in addition to further details about their services (see below). The user can also see the matchbook cover on a map showing the business’ original location, or take a west to east tour of these historical businesses along the Pacific Coast Highway via the Library’s Historypin.com channel.
Return to a time when Alice’s Restaurant graced the Malibu Pier, when Duke’s Malibu was known as the Las Flores Inn, when lovers rendezvoused at the Albatross Hotel, and when Pacific Palisades had the Lighthouse café (and a working lighthouse). Enjoy.