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During the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, English cigarette companies used to insert a
small color card (approx. half the size of an American baseball card) into
each packet of cigarettes. There were many different series: The monarchy;
antique cars; locomotives; butterflies, and so on. These cards are highly
collecitble today, and complete sets often sell for a good deal of money.

During my last visit to England I happened upon a 50 card set entitled
"Romance of the Heavens," which was produced by the Wills Cigarette Company in
(I believe) the early 1940s. I'm not really a collector of these cards, but
this set was particularly beautiful, and so I bought it. I have attached scans
of two of the most pertinent: "Halley's Comet," and "Shower of Meteors." There
are many other lovely images, such as "Typical Lunar Craters," "Lunar Corona,"
"Mock Moons," "A Spiral Nebula," and so on. All done in a marvelous classical
British illustration style.

The reverse of each card carries a (sometimes very colorful and imaginative)
description of the illustration:

 "A SHOWER OF METEORS. The name "meteor" is derived from a Greek word meaning
"things in the air." These "shooting stars" are fragments of stone or stone
and iron from shattered comets, which, as they revolve round the sun, dash
into our atmosphere at great velocitites and become incandescent. Their
material usually becomes exhausted as it passes through the air, though
occasionally fragments (meteorites) sometimes strike our Earth. As our picture
shows, the members of a shower of Meteors appear to radiate from a common
centre like the spokes of a wheel. Actually they are parallel, the apparent
divergence being the effect of perspective."

I found the series particularly interesting because several of the text
segments (such as explanation of the formation of the moon) are no longer
accepted scientific theories. 

I kept the attached file very small, so that it won't tie up anyone's modem.
Hope nobody minds me sending this jpeg file through the ether -- I wouldn't
normally send an attached file, but these images seemed particularly
attractive. If anyone would like to see a larger picture, email me, and I'll
send you one. Also, if anyone just MUST have a set of these cards, I can give
you the name of a shop in London that might have a set

Happy Fourth,