Fake news—-1932 style

Buddha matches

Found in the Jan-Feb 1932 issue of Collector’s Miscellany is this report on a bizarre anti-religion campaign rumoured to have been created by the USSR.

‘It has been extremely difficult to secure definite information relating to the anti-religious match-box labels said to have been issued by the Soviet Government as part of their anti-God campaign. The one illustrated in this issue depicts the crucification of Christ and bears the words “Jesus Christ Safety Matches”. This label is understood to be one of a series, as there are said to be others depicting the Sacred Heart and various other religious subjects.

       These matches which have been the subject of much comment in the daily press, are said to have been hawked upon the streets of London by gutter merchants and that a member of Parliament raised the question in the House of Commons as to whether any action was being taken by the British Government.

         One thing is certain, and that is these labels are likely to be rare; I do not know of any collector in this country fortunate enough to secure a specimen. A London correspondent assured me that the matches were never sold in London but were produced by the Krishna Match Co. of India, who also issue of BUDDHA MATCH, and others featuring various Indian religions. Personally, I am inclined to favour this statement, as the box in question, said to have been bought in the New Cut, may easily have been bought from India by some seaman.                                                                                                        (JOSEPH PARKS )

The Jesus Christ matchbox label was featured in an earlier Jot. It gave offence to many in India and was ‘almost immediately ‘suppressed, making it extremely rare and a sought after collector’s item. Because other labels featuring religious subjects were not censured to the same degree it is unlikely that they were withdrawn. Though it is true that the Soviet government did pursue a vigorous poster campaign against Christianity in the thirties, there is no strong evidence that this extended to caricaturing religious symbols on match-box labels. The ‘fake news’ that they were doing so was surely a product of anti-Soviet hysteria in the West.  [RR}

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