CSTS NYC MTA Logo

Big Tobacco in the Big Apple

How New York City Became the Heart of the Tobacco Industry
…and Anti Smoking Activism

Billboards

BTBA NYC

The City’s Most Dominating Cigarette Advertisements (1:35)

Easily the most famous cigarette sign of all time is the cigarette smoke blowing camels billboard in Times Square which was always called “The Crossroads of the World” or “The Great White Way.” Douglas Leigh a public relations Genius of the 20th century created the sign and for decades, this was actually a site for parents to take their kids to watch the man up on the sign blowing smoke rings.

Time’s Square Steam “Smoking” Billboard

Billboard
Camel
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
1940s

Time’s Square Steam “Smoking” Billboard

Billboard
Camel
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
1950s

“Always”

Postcard of a Billboard Advertisement
Camel
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
1922

Smooth Character

Billboard
Camel
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
1995

By the 1990s, the camel billboard had returned this time, illuminated an animated a long block away at the northwest corner of 42nd street and 8th avenue was an eight-story building painted entirely with a Camel cigarette advertisement. Across the street at the Northeast corner was a five-story building with a Marlboro billboard on top, and I paid the owner of the building fifty dollars to let me climb up on the billboard, and I didn’t even come up halfway to the O of the Marlboro.

“I had to come all the way up here to read the health warning” (1:17)

Video clip of Alan Blum, MD, on a Marlboro billboard on the roof of the building
at the northeast corner of 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue, 1986
Video by Jack Micay, MD

Camels Sure Agree Best With Me – Douglas Leigh

Advertisement
Camel
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
LIFE Magazine
1954

Douglas Leigh, The Man Who Lit Up Broadway, Dies at 92

Obituary
Douglas Martin
The New York Times
December 16, 1999

The Sign is Gone, But The Enjoyment Keeps Going

Cigarette Pack
Camel
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
2000s

Time Square Light Shows

Article
Elaine Louise
The New York Times
November 6, 1997

By the late 1970s, the Camel billboard was long gone but the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company had a new brand called Real that they plastered all over Times Square and in that same space billboard and throughout New York City. One of the advertising executives for R.J. Reynolds was said to have claimed that this was the most expensive advertising launch in history and ads for the product were on everything but painted rocks.

Marlboro billboard on an overpass in Queens (0:35)

Video
Alan Blum, MD
1995

Camel billboard near an overpass in Queens,  (0:30)

Video
Alan Blum, MD
1995

Camel Billboard in Times Square (1:31)

Video
Alan Blum, MD
1995

Painted Building Camel Billboard, 42nd Street and 8th Avenue

Advertisement
Camel
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
1995

Painted Building Winston Ad, 34th Street and 8th Avenue

Advertisement
Winston
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
1960s

Moving south on 8th Avenue toward Madison Square Garden at 34th Street and 8th avenue was what was called the world’s largest outdoor billboard and it was a painted building perhaps 20 stories high on which various cigarette brands were advertised through the years.

Newport on Worlds Largest Outdoor Sign

Advertisement
Newport
Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co.
1979

Painted building Kool ad, 34th Street and 8th Avenue

Advertisement
Kool
Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co.
1990s

Viewer Discretion Advised: Subliminal Imagery

Billboard
Camel
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
1990s

Come to Marlboro Country

Billboard
Marlboro
Philip Morris Inc.
1990s

CSTS NYC MTA Logo

Explore the Essence of New York with the Links Below

Or use the navigation bar to visit other sections of the Exhibition

BTBA NYC
© Copyright - The Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society