A Brief History of Souvenir Restaurant Matches
March 20, 2015 8:13 AM   Subscribe

"People are always astounded that we still have Michael's matches at the front desks," says restaurant owner Michael McCarty, who offers the once-ubiquitous restaurant keepsake at both his restaurant locations: Michael's Santa Monica and Michael's New York. Although matchbooks are no longer a go-to restaurant souvenir, Michael's offers a classic 1½" x 2 ¼" sized matchbox — emblazoned with the bi-coastal restaurant's signature Art Deco-inspired pale pink script against a dark green background. McCarty posits, however, that his guests' surprise is disingenuous. Truth is, he says, "everybody loves a great box of matches."

Bonus (linked in the article): Matchbook Diaries Instagram
posted by ellieBOA (25 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
This was really neat, thank you!
posted by spinturtle at 8:21 AM on March 20, 2015


I love souvenir matches although I don't actually collect them. But I am glad to see someone has decided to be keeper of the flame. Now we need a post about swizzle sticks.
posted by TedW at 8:24 AM on March 20, 2015


I have an entire drawer of restaurant matches - I think most of them are from places long gone now.

(Oh hey places that have this that LOOK like matchbooks but are actually toothpicks? Not. Cool)
posted by The Whelk at 8:25 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Interesting article!

Alhough smoking is confined to certain areas now, collecting vintage matchbooks from Disney restaurants, shops, and resorts is still a thing.

Scroll down about halfway in this post from the The "World" According to Jack blog for a nice assortment. My favorites are the personalized book from Club 33 and the minimalist gold design from the Contemporary Resort's Top of the World Club.

The Disney Food Blog's collection is smaller and of older vintage. Love the one with The Frito Kid!

Parkeology's collection features my absolute favorite, the log-cabin designed book from the Fort Wilderness Resort, complete with log-textures matchsticks inside.

A post on an AllEars guest blog adds boxed matches and ash trays to their pictures of standard books.


Grandma used to have a wall-mounted matchbook dispenser hanging next to the woodstove. When she'd ask you to get a book out for her, it was always a treat to find the random souvenir books that got mixed in with the store brand ones.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:32 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, things that look like matchbooks, but each little match head is actually a chili seed are extremely cool.
posted by penguinicity at 8:36 AM on March 20, 2015


I found some matchbooks!
posted by The Whelk at 8:46 AM on March 20, 2015


I'm a little surprised the writer didn't talk to anyone from Matchbox, my go-to source for matchboxes and (at Ted's Bulletin) matchbooks.
posted by EvaDestruction at 8:52 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


They're increasingly rare, but the ones I do have I treasure. I particularly love the matchboxes where the color of the head of the match coordinates with the box. I was sad to use up my last ones from Uchi. They reminded me of the fabulous meal I had whenever I used them.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:53 AM on March 20, 2015


I've never actually had a restaurant matchbook but I still want them badly. A matchbook is a small item that makes me feel debonair.
posted by Monochrome at 9:06 AM on March 20, 2015


I'm trying to think of the last time that I actually struck a match. Can't remember. Funny how once ubiquitous things will fade away without you noticing that they've done that.
posted by octothorpe at 9:06 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


The real problem with the fall of match popularity is that I'm seldom asked "Have you got a match?" and thus the opportunity to respond "Yeah, your face and my ass."
posted by mr. digits at 9:16 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Apocryphally, "Close cover before striking" used to be the most frequently printed phrase in the English language. I wonder what's taken its place--"Keep out of reach of children," perhaps?
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:19 AM on March 20, 2015


The Matchbook Registry is no more, though there are a few images available via a Wayback search - NOTE: NSFW due to a few nudes on the matchbook covers. Fortunately, Matchboxes Of The Subcontinent is still kicking! Kitty matches for the discerning City Cat!
posted by Zack_Replica at 9:22 AM on March 20, 2015


Here's another regularly-updating matchbook site, focusing on older graphic designs. Every one of them looks like my grandfather's house.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:30 AM on March 20, 2015


I recently started photographing all the matchbooks in the bin of matchbooks I've had forever (I did not get very far, honestly). Most are restaurants/bars, a couple are cigarette ads, some are from a Kaiser Chiefs tour. You can still find matchbooks for free lots of places, which makes sense to me as they have more utility than lighting cigarettes.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:51 AM on March 20, 2015


I was really surprised to find that a lot of places here in Germany still have souvenir match books, and though neither myself or my husband smoke we usually palm one or two because they are just cool.
posted by Megami at 10:00 AM on March 20, 2015


Damnit, I can't find it but a few tears ago I found, and purchased, a matchbook from my grandfathe'rs place in Worcester MA from the '40s. It was quite nifty.
posted by vrakatar at 10:05 AM on March 20, 2015


Somewhere in the distance
I can hear who shot Sam
This is my conviction that I am an innocent man
Oh, you say, I'm unkind, I'm being as nice as I can

Boys everywhere fumbling with the catches
I struck lucky with motel matches
Falling for you without a second look
Falling out of your open pocket book
Giving you away like motel matches

I wake with the siren in an emergency
Though your mind is full of love
In your eyes there is a vacancy
And you know what I do
When the light outside changes from red to blue

Boys everywhere fumbling with the catches
I struck lucky with motel matches
Falling for you without a second look
Falling out of your open pocket book
Giving you away like motel matches

Elvis Costello - "Motel Matches" (from "Get Happy!!")
posted by chavenet at 12:42 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


A thoroughly hipster restaurant in Saskatoon, SK, The Hollows never put up a sighn or redecorated their location, the former Golden Dragon. They were lucky enough to find cases of old Golden Dragon matches and just stamped their name into the inside! I have several of these matchbooks and would include an image if I weren't at work. I also regret not living where I can stock back up.
posted by Gor-ella at 12:43 PM on March 20, 2015


My Dad was in Big Steel back in the 60s. He flew around the country, wining and dining corporate customers on a generous expense account. Plus, he liked cigars.

I thus inherited a glorious snifter full of matchbooks: Omar Khayyam's, Edna Earl's Fogcutter, Trader Vic's, The Forum of the Twelve Caesars, and on and on.

Only recently did I learn that collectors remove the matches, keeping onlly the covers. I need to get to work--they're probably a serious fire hazard.
posted by kinnakeet at 2:08 PM on March 20, 2015


As a kid I started collecting matchbooks from restaurants for some reason. I've got a huge bag somewhere. Never figured they'd be endangered.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:11 PM on March 20, 2015


I also remember that when I was a kid and teen, custom-printed matchbooks with the bride and grooms' names were as de rigeur as wedding reception table favors as Jordan Almonds wrapped in tulle.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:29 PM on March 20, 2015


I probably grabbed my share of matchbooks as a kid, but they would all end up in the kitchen drawer. My personal souvenir stash was a box of hotel soap.
posted by Standard Orange at 10:44 PM on March 20, 2015


Now we need a post about swizzle sticks.

I have both a pile of matchbooks and swizzle sticks inherited from my parents casual collecting, and thought the same thing.
posted by mikelieman at 1:40 PM on March 21, 2015


I don't miss trying to light a cigarette with my last damp match.
posted by double block and bleed at 9:45 PM on March 21, 2015


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