1948.14 | Cigar box
19th century or 20th century
11 x 35.8 x 23 cm
Bequest of the Right Honourable Richard Bedford, Viscount Bennett
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Keys to History
The Canadian economy hit rock bottom in 1933, after which it began a slow and steady recovery. The public, however, was slow to experience the real effects of this improvement. As Prime Minister, R.B. Bennett (1870-1947) bore the responsibility of leadership and became a magnet for the despair and outright anger of his countrymen. He was characterized as autocratic, cold and overly intellectual. The millionaire persona that had been so admired and promising a few years earlier was now sneered at and dismissed by a nation struggling to pay its bills and feed itself.
This highly decorated silver cigar box with its gold lid ornament was presented to Bennett by the King of Siam. It is difficult to gauge the extent to the public knew about the "shiny treasures" the Prime Minister accepted from his friends and admirers. Certainly, they are symbols of Bennett's apparent upper-class, ultra-conservative attitude toward the hungry masses. To his Cabinet colleagues, their leader remained a bit of a mystery, working 15 to 16 hours a day, and often lecturing rather than conversing.
The cigar box is lined with wood designed to provide the humidity required for keeping cigars fresh.
The Kingdom of Siam is now known as Thailand.
During R.B. Bennett's term as Prime Minister, there were two Kings of Siam,, Prajadhipok (1893-1941) who reigned from 1925-1935, and Ananda Mahidol (1925-1946) who reigned from 1935-1946. Either of them may have given Bennett this cigar box.
As R.B. Bennett neither smoked nor drank, how he used this box is unclear; chocolates, however, were a weakness.