May 1st, 1960

High filtration Kent Cigarettes aren't just for the faint of heart. On May 1st, 1960, CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers flew an espionage mission over the USSR that ended in his becoming a pawn in the Cold War. From a base in Pakistan, Powers' Lockheed U-2 spyplane was to overfly Russia photographing military installations and gathering intelligence data. Known to the Soviets as "The Black Lady of Espionage," the high altitude U-2 was destroyed by a missile and Powers captured when he parachuted into a village near Sverdlovsk in central Russia. Wreckage of the U-2 was displayed in Moscow's Gorky Park, along with Powers' silenced .22 caliber pistol, poisoned suicide pin, 24 gold coins, and his half-full pack of Kent cigarettes. Thirty-one year old Francis Gary Powers was sentenced to three years in Vladimir Prison plus an additional seven years in a corrective labor colony, but was exchanged for Soviet master spy Colonel Rudolph Abel after serving one year, nine months, and ten days. The 1959 Kent package pictured below is almost identical to the pack Powers carried in a pocket of his pressure-suit. The only difference is the blue federal excise tax stamp. The tax stamp had been discontinued in June 1959 and replaced with a blue closure seal. One last piece of cigarette trivia: One of the village men who had captured Francis Gary Powers offered him a "Laika." Laika was a Russian filter tipped cigarette named for the dog sent into space aboard Sputnik II. Although he didn't read, write or speak Russian, Laika was easy for Powers to identify because the paper package used a picture of the famous dog for a logo. Powers thought the cigarette tasted much like its American counterparts.
cigarette pack USSR cigarette pack

The Laika pack pictured above is from the collection of my friend Micky Engel. Micky is a pack collector who lives in Jerusalem. Thank you Micky for sharing this wonderful and historic pack.

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*NOTE* All images are copyright by James A. Shaw. Reproduction of any kind is strictly prohibited without prior express written consent...