by H. Thomas Steele. Jim Heimann. and Rod Dyer; Abbeville Press; 96 pages.
Matchbook covers are little posters and this lavish gallery of them displays their bright and forthright graphics to splendid advantage. Here are deco hotels rising in scintillant cubes of green and orange, streamlined locomotives pulling silver cars, ecstatic redcaps hurrying out to help, hula dancers, longhaul truckers, fighter planes, and endless restaurant interiors, all severely geometric, all inexplicably inviting. The introduction begins with the deadening information that “fire, along with air, water, and earth, was long regarded as one of our planet’s four basic elements” but soon picks up with the pioneering Henry C. Traute’s 1894 sale of ten million matchbooks with printed covers to the Pabst brewery—an order that opened floodgates that, despite disposable lighters and the surgeon general, still have not closed.