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Lucky Strike

For other uses, see Lucky Strike (disambiguation).
Lucky Strike
Lucky Strike logo launched in 2013.
Product type Cigarette
Produced by British American Tobacco
Japan Tobacco
R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (in the U.S.)
Introduced 1871

Lucky Strike is an American brand of cigarette owned by the British American Tobacco groups. Often referred to as "Luckies", Lucky Strike was the top selling cigarette in the United States during the 1930s. Lucky Strikes now have developed a "cult" following, with many people that smoked Lucky Strikes in their youth continuing to seek them out.[1]


Lucky Strike were produced in 1871 by the company R.A. Patterson in the USA as chewing tobacco (many sources mention Matt Tellman as the founder of 'Luckies' but there is not an extended amount of significant information about him). The founder of 'Luckies' was inspired by the era's rush for gold searching. Only some of the gold diggers (approximately 4 out of 1000) were fortunate enough to find gold and this was often referred to as a lucky strike. By choosing this expression as the product's name, it was meant that consumers that were choosing the brand were lucky, as they were choosing top quality blend. Lucky Strike was a brand of chewing tobacco and by the early 1900s it had evolved into a cigarette.


Advertising photo for Lucky Strike by Nickolas Muray, 1936.

The brand was first introduced by R.A. Patterson of Richmond, Virginia, in 1871 as cut-plug chewing tobacco and later a cigarette. In 1905, the company was acquired by the American Tobacco Company (ATC).

File:Lucky strike it's toasted.jpg
The "It's Toasted" ad as explained, from 1917.

In 1917, the brand started using the slogan, "It's Toasted", to inform consumers about the manufacturing method in which the tobacco is toasted rather than sun-dried, a process touted as making the cigarettes taste delicious.

In the late 1920s, the brand was sold as a route to thinness for women. One typical ad said, "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet." Sales of Lucky Strikes increased by more than 300% during the first year of the advertising campaign. Sales went from 14 billion cigarettes in 1925 to 40 billion sold in 1930, making Lucky Strike the leading brand nationwide.[2]

Lucky Strike' association with radio music programs began during the 1920s on NBC. By 1928, the bandleader and vaudeville producer B. A. Rolfe was performing on radio and recording as "B.A. Rolfe and his Lucky Strike Orchestra" for Edison Records. In 1935, ATC began to sponsor Your Hit Parade, featuring North Carolina tobacco auctioneer Lee Aubrey "Speed" Riggs (later, another tobacco auctioneer from Lexington, Kentucky, F.E. Boone, was added). The weekly radio show's countdown catapulted the brand's success, remaining popular for 25 years. The shows capitalized on the tobacco auction theme and each ended with the signature phrase "Sold, American."[3]

The company's advertising campaigns generally featured a theme that stressed the quality of the tobacco purchased at auction for use in making Lucky Strike cigarettes and claimed that the higher quality tobacco resulted in a cigarette with better flavor. American engaged in a series of advertisements using Hollywood actors as endorsers of Lucky Strike, including testimonials from Douglas Fairbanks, concerning the cigarette's flavor.[3]

Lucky Strike was also a sponsor of comedian Jack Benny's radio and TV show, The Jack Benny Program, which was also introduced as The Lucky Strike Program.

File:Lucky Strike Towers.JPG
Lucky Strike factories in Durham, NC

The brand's signature dark green pack was changed to white in 1942. In a famous advertising campaign that used the slogan "Lucky Strike Green has gone to war", the company claimed the change was made because the copper used in the green color was needed for World War II.[4] American Tobacco actually used chromium to produce the green ink, and copper to produce the gold-colored trim. A limited supply of each was available, and substitute materials made the package look drab.[5][not in citation given]

The truth of the matter was that the white package was introduced to modernize the label and to increase the appeal of the package among female smokers; market studies showed that the green package was not found attractive to women, who had become important consumers of tobacco products. The war effort became a convenient way to make the product more marketable while appearing patriotic at the same time.[5]

Famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy was challenged by company president George Washington Hill to improve the existing green and red package, with a $50,000 bet at stake. Loewy changed the background from green to white, making it more attractive to women as well as cutting printing costs by eliminating the need for green dye. He also placed the Lucky Strike target logo on both sides of the package, a move that increased both visibility and sales. Hill paid off the bet.[6]

File:Lucky Strike Red.JPG
British Lucky Strike pack with cigarette alongside and government health warning.

The message "L.S.M.F.T." ("Lucky Strike means fine tobacco") was introduced on the package in 1945.

Lucky Strikes were one of the brands included in the C rations provided to US combat troops during the second world war. Each C ration of the time included, among other items, nine cigarettes of varying brands because at the time top military brass thought that tobacco was essential to the morale of soldiers fighting on the front lines. Other cigarette brands included in the C rations were Camel, Chesterfield, Old Gold, and Raleigh. The practice of including cigarettes in field rations continued during the Korean and Vietnam wars, ending around 1975 or 1976 among the growing knowledge that smoking caused various kinds of health problems. [7] [8]

Post World War II

File:Button (BAR) qualifying at USGP 2005.jpg
Jenson Button driving for BAR at Indianapolis in the 2005 US Grand Prix donning a Lucky Strike livery

As a result of British American Tobacco plc's buying out American Tobacco Company in 1976, Lucky Strike came under control of BAT. The company acquired Formula 1s Tyrrell Racing team in 1997 and rebranded it as British American Racing the following year, sponsoring the team with its Lucky Strike and stablemate 555 brands. The team was bought outright by partners Honda by 2006, though Lucky Strike continued to sponsor the team until the end of that year.

In 1978 and 1994, export rights and U.S. rights were purchased by Brown & Williamson. In the 1960s, filtered styles were launched in addition to a mentholated version called "Lucky Strike Green". This time "Green" was referring to menthol and not to the overall package color. In late 2006, both the Full Flavored and Light filtered varieties of Lucky Strike cigarettes were discontinued in North America. However, Lucky Strike continued to have marketing and distribution support in territories controlled by British American Tobacco as a global drive brand. In addition, R. J. Reynolds continues to market the original, non-filter Lucky Strikes in the United States. Lucky Strikes currently have a small base of smokers.[9][10]

In 2007, a new packaging of Lucky Strikes was released, with a two-way opening which split seven cigarettes from the rest. In the same year, the company used the world's smallest man, He Pingping, in their ad campaigns.

In 2009, Lucky Strike Silver (the brand marketed as lighter) changed their UK packs from the quintessential red design to blue, albeit with a red teaser outer covering the packet.

Cultural references

File:Cowboybebop snapshot luckys.jpg
A Lucky Strike package appears in the opening credits of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie.

The cigarette brand is referenced in many modern forms of media.

In art

  • American Colonial-Cubist artist Stuart Davis represented the brand in his 1921 painting, 'Lucky Strike'

In music

  • Jazz saxophonist Lucky Thompson's 1964 album Lucky Strikes depicted the logo from the cigarette pack on its cover.
  • Billy Joel's 1983 song "Keeping the Faith", from the album An Innocent Man, mentions the brand in the lyric: "I took a fresh pack of Luckies and a mint called Sen-Sen. My old man's Trojans and his Old Spice aftershave."[11]
  • Minneapolis Indie Rock band Howler based the artwork of their debut album America Give Up on a pack of Lucky Strikes.[12]
  • In The Ataris' song "All You Can Ever Learn is What You Already Know", an empty box of Lucky Strikes is referred to in the second verse.[13]
  • In Rodney Atkins' song "These Are My People", he mentions "Chokin' on the smoke from a Lucky Strike somebody lifted off his old man."[14]
  • In Jason Aldean's song "Back In This Cigarette", he mentions an ash tray being full of "Lucky Strikes" while inside of a hotel room.[15]
  • In ZZ Top's song "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide", they mention the passengers in their car are "smokin' Lucky Strikes" as they cruise the highway.[16]
  • In Dropkick Murphys's song "Sunday Hardcore Matinee", there is a line mentioning a "Pack of Luckies" among the possessions of those en route to the show.[17]
  • In Tom Waits's song "Kentucky Avenue", he mentions having "half a pack of Lucky Strikes" in the first verse.[18]
  • In Pistol Annies song "Takin' Pills", one of the women in the song is portrayed as smoking Lucky Strikes in the first verse with the line: "Although she ain’t gonna smile till she lights up her Lucky. No filter on her mouth or her cigarettes". [19]
  • In John Hiatt's song Trudy and Dave he sings "Well David put a match to a Lucky Strike And the smoke curled up 'round his head how he liked...".

In television

  • In the hit AMC television series Mad Men, Donald Draper is often seen smoking Lucky Strikes.
  • In the hit 1980s NBC television series Miami Vice, the character Det. James "Sonny" Crockett (Don Johnson) smoked unfiltered Lucky Strikes. The package is occasionally visible, particularly in the two-hour pilot, "Brother's Keeper" and the episode "Calderone's Demise". Johnson ceded to pressure to not smoke on camera later in the show's history.
  • Van Montgomery from the TV show Reba wanted to start smoking Lucky Strike Cigarettes when he was medically told to stop playing Arena Football.
  • In the acclaimed AMC television series Mad Men, Lucky Strike is a major client for the fictional advertising agency Sterling Cooper. A fictitious plot is also presented for the birth of the legendary slogan "It's Toasted".[20]
  • The main character of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire is occasionally seen smoking the green pack of Lucky Strikes, as well as ad placement throughout the series.
  • For many years, Lucky Strike Tobacco sponsored The Jack Benny Program, on both the radio and television versions of the show.
  • In the season premiere of American Horror Story: Freak Show, Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) smokes a cigarette at a hospital and says; "It's fine. It's Lucky Strike. It's good for you".
  • Lucky Strike cigarettes are featured frequently throughout the miniseries Band of Brothers, as well as verbally referenced to by Sergeant Malarkey in the episode "Bastogne".

In film

  • In the film GoodFellas, young Tommy and Henry are selling cigarettes out of a truck, and Henry is heard selling "2 Luckys" to a customer.
  • Filtered and unfiltered Lucky Strike cigarettes are smoked by Johnny Depp's character in The Ninth Gate.
  • In the film Misery, based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King, James Caan's character, Paul Sheldon, smokes one unfiltered Lucky Strike upon the completion of every novel he writes.
  • In the film Fury (2014), Brad Pitt and the three other smokers in the tank crew appear to smoke unfiltered Lucky Strikes throughout the film. They share a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes just before the film's climactic battle.
  • Unfiltered Lucky Strike cigarettes are smoked by Winona Ryder's character in the film Night on Earth (1991).

In other uses

  • Former U.S. Senator Jesse Helms (RNorth Carolina) handed out Lucky Strike cigarettes, which were his personal brand of choice, in his Senate office to meeting attendants until it became "utterly unfashionable."[21]
  • In Thomas Pynchon's acclaimed novel Gravity's Rainbow: "But shrewd Tyrone hangs around, distributing Lucky Strikes, long enough to find at least what's up with this Unlucky Strike, here." (20)
  • In Donna Tartt's novel The Secret History, the character Henry Winter smokes Lucky Strikes.
  • Solid Snake, protagonist of the Metal Gear Solid series of games, smokes Lucky Strikes.

Cigarette camp

Lucky Strike was the name of one of a number of temporary U.S. Army "tent cities" known as Cigarette Camps situated around the French port of Le Havre following its capture in the wake of the Allied D-Day invasion in mid-1944.[22]

See also


  1. ^ The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America. Allan M. Brandt. Basic Books, 2009
  2. ^ Women Under the Influence. Columbia University. National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. JHU Press, 2006. p. 21
  3. ^ a b K L Lum, J R Polansky, R K Jackler and S A Glantz: "Signed, sealed and delivered: 'big tobacco' in Hollywood, 192–1951" doi:10.1136/tc.2008.025445 (September 25, 2008)
  4. ^ Robert Heide and John Gilman, Home Front America: Popular Culture of the World War II Era p 128-9 ISBN 0-8118-0927-7 OCLC 31207708
  5. ^ a b "Bull's Eye Logo" by Barbara Mikelson at (February 7, 2007)
  6. ^ "About:Biography [Raymond Loewy]". Raymond Loewy: The Father of Industrial Design. Estate of Raymond Loewy. Retrieved May 10, 2012. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ R.J. Reynolds Brand Portfolio via the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Our international brands, British American Tobacco
  11. ^ Lyrics to Keeping the Faith
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  19. ^
  20. ^ Pow, Helen (September 23, 2013). "Mad Men sparks cigarette sales boom for Lucky Strike with 10 BILLION more packs sold last year compared to when series first aired". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 5 November 2013. 
  21. ^ Troxler, Howard. Jesse Helms' legacy is today's politicking. St. Petersburg Times. August 23, 2001.
  22. ^ Sawyer and Mitchell, Victory Ships and Tankers, p. 24 "The ship made crossings in 1946 carrying troops between the European Theater of Operations, especially Le Havre, France, and New York City, New York. From Le Havre, the ship often left from the area known as the 'Cigarette Camps.'”

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