This unique matchsafe is a keepsake from the early 1900s, celebrating Lucy the Margate Elephant, a landmark of South Atlantic City, N.J. (now called Margate).
Portable matchsafes were used to protect wooden matches from moisture or combustion, and served as mementos, or conversation-starting trinkets that often made a statement about their owner. This particular piece commemorates a trip to the seaside to South Atlantic City, and a trip to see Lucy, “The World’s Greatest Elephant.”
Built in 1881 and patented in 1882 by her creator, James Lafferty, Lucy is a 65-foot high wooden building in the shape of an elephant, divided into rooms and accessible by stairs housed in the legs. This odd tourist attraction must have provided excellent fodder for the souvenir market!
It turns out that Lucy is actually one of three such structures built by Lafferty, but she is the only one left, after a fire destroyed the Coney Island elephant and the Cape May elephant was torn down.
This matchsafe is a reminder of Atlantic City before the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, before the casinos and resorts we think of now, when the main attraction was a massive wooden elephant.
You can learn more about Lucy here: http://www.lucytheelephant.org