When I was a kid, growing up in Minnesota, my family and I took lots of trips out to Pennsylvania to visit my Grandparents on my Dad’s side, Grammy and Gramps. I loved how different “Out East” (as we called it) felt from Minnesota. Grammy and Gramps were both retired by that point, and the trips were filled with the fun of them doting on and spoiling me and my cousin Anna. Like most things from that age, it all seems to have taken place in a vague and dreamy fun land.
There was one drawer in a bureau in their entryway that was overflowing with matchbooks from all over the place – they traveled quite a bit in their retirement years. I always thought it was funny that they had bothered to keep these things around.
Gramps died while I was in high school, preceded by Grammy a few years earlier. While we were going through their belongings, deciding what to keep and such, I came across their matchbook collection. At that age, it wasn’t really my place to decide about who was keeping the bigger things, but I felt really strongly about holding onto the matchbooks. I wasn’t as into old/vintage things back then, but it was all of a sudden really important to me to hang onto these artifacts that seemed so ephemeral and easily tossed out.
I like how they give a kind of sideways glimpse into Grammy and Gramps’ life. They give off a feeling of idealized fanciness and relaxation that seems very much of a bygone era. They’re also really cool on a purely aesthetic level, each one doing different things with the same basic form by varying the materials, layout and illustrations to make something that could be inanimate and boring into an object that’s fun and interactive.
Here are a few of my favorites: