Matchstick art was commonly seen in areas where men were confined with limited recreation. This was particularly true during World War I in POW camps. Matchsticks were one of the few artifacts which were found in camp confinements. Matches were provided along with cigarettes and pipe tobacco to the prisoners. The match sticks, which after lighting a pipe or cigarette, were retained for building various types of configurations. If a match was used quickly enough, a majority of the length of the matchstick could be used in this fashion. The black end of the match was also saved and used to create patterns.
Matchstick art is still seen in modern prisons, as prisoner create artwork to help pass the time of day. The fireplace in our collection was made by a prisoner who signed the bottom, while he was serving time in a Maine prison.