Cigarette case used by Anna May Wong

Description (Brief):

Cigarette case used by Anna May Wong. The rectangular case is made of two tortoise shell-styled cellulose acetate trays joined on one long side by a gold metal hinge and the other by a metal clasp. Inside, two scallop shell-styled gold metal clasps are affixed on opposite ends of the trays for holding cigarettes. The exterior front of the case is decorated with carved illustrations of five cranes in flight, at the upper left corner, and a Chinese design motif, at the bottom right corner.

Description (Brief)

Anna May Wong (1905-1961) was a groundbreaking Chinese American film star, model, and style icon who fought racist prejudice against Asian Americans that limited her opportunities and obscured her legacy. Born Wong Liu Tsong, she grew up in Los Angeles's Chinatown obsessed with movies, and took her stage name at the age of 11 while trying to break in to the burgeoning film industry there. She first appeared as an extra in the 1919 film The Red Lantern and received her first screen credit in the 1921 film Bits of Life; that year she dropped out of high school to pursue her career as an actress. Despite gaining critical acclaim for her acting in notable films such as The Toll of the Sea (1922), The Thief of Bagdad (1924), Daughter of the Dragon (1931), and Shanghai Express (1932), Wong found her opportunities limited to a range of roles as “Dragon Lady”, doomed lover of a white man, or sensual concubine, embodying harmful stereotypes about Asian women. Meanwhile, she became a major style icon, helping to popularize the flapper look as well as Asian-inspired fashion in her simultaneous career as a model. She lobbied for the role of the sympathetic Chinese lead O-Lan in the major MGM feature The Good Earth (1935), but producers instead hired white Louise Rainer for the role, a major disappointment for Wong. She found greater freedom and success in Europe, where she appeared in classic films like Piccadilly (1929), and embarked on a highly publicized tour of China. In later life, she used her fame to support the allied war effort in WWII and continued to work in B movies, radio, and television, becoming the first Asian American actor to headline a television series with Dumont's The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong (1951). She was attempting a film career comeback with a role the major musical Flower Drum Song when she died in 1961.

Date Made: around 1930s

User: Wong, Anna May

Location: Currently not on view

Subject: Tobacco UseChinese AmericansAsian AmericansActors

Subject:

See more items in: Culture and the Arts: Entertainment, Popular Entertainment

Exhibition:

Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Anna Wong

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2022.0275.02Accession Number: 2022.0275Catalog Number: 2022.0275.02

Object Name: cigarette case

Physical Description: cellulose acetate (overall material)Measurements: overall: 7 in x 2 1/2 in x 1 in; 17.78 cm x 6.35 cm x 2.54 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng439d4e71b-9126-46b5-a695-43947a102bad

Record Id: nmah_2023245

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.