Olympic Throwback

Tucked away in the rare book collection of the Ross Pendergraft Library is a curious piece of Olympic history.  Inside the library’s Special Collections is a volume documenting the history of the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles,  Die Olympischen Spiele in Los Angeles 1932


Published in Germany in 1932, shortly after the games have ended, the book contains 200 black and white and hand-colored photographs.  What makes this particular book so special is the fact that it is a completed cigarette card album.


Cigarette cards originated in the 1870’s to stiffen cigarette packs.   Advertisers quickly realized the potential, and they started printing pictures and other information on the cards for people to collect.[1]  The most famous example of this were baseball cards, which first became popular in the 1880’s and continue to be collectors’ items today.[2]  The tobacco companies would sell special albums for particular sets into which you could paste your collection of cards.


Not only is this book unusual in form, it is also worth noting that the text was produced in Germany—by a German cigarette company, Reemstma—during the build-up to World War II and the rise of Nazism.   This is a primary source of their impression of these multi-cultural games held in the United States.  Germany was to host the next Olympic games in 1936.


In this volume, the cards have been securely pasted onto the yellowing pages, and feature beautiful glimpses of athletes, dignitaries, events, and venues in stunning detail.


Read more about the 1932 Olympics, Cigarette Cards, the astonishing story of the 1932 women’s 100 meter gold medalist, Stanislawa Walasiewicz, in our history database, Historical Abstracts with Full Text.


Special Collections contain the library’s rare books, Arkansas materials, Arkansas Tech publications, and the master’s theses produced at ATU.  You can discover this collection in our online catalog by limiting to location “Special Collections”.


These materials do not check-out, but you may read, touch, and smell these rare items within the library by making an appointment.  To do this, send an email to the keepers of the Olympic torch at askalibrarian@atu.edu or pole-vault over to the reference desk where our friendly staff still hold the world record for 100 meter customer service while wearing a cardigan.



[1]Archer, C. (2004, Apr 22). PRINT’S PAST: Cigarette cards. Printweek, , 62. Retrieved from https://libcatalog.atu.edu:443/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/230399621?accountid=8364
[2] “Library of Congress Web Site Offers More than 2,100 Early Baseball Cards on-Line.” U.S.Newswire, Sep 30, 1998. https://libcatalog.atu.edu:443/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/451185971?accountid=8364.