Constitutional Places: A Matchbook from Ollie’s Barbecue Manufactured in Atlanta, Proof They Engaged In Interstate Commerce

March 27th, 2014

And who says trolling eBay for worthless mementos from Supreme Court cases is useless. Recently, for the princely sum of $3.99 plus shipping, I purchased a matchbook from Ollie’s Barbecue–the Birmingham, Alabama establishment of Katzenbach v. McClung fame that refused to serve black customers, insisting that it did not engage in interstate commerce. Though, as the Court found, it purchase most of its meat from a butcher who had procured it from out of state.

In the 12 months preceding the passage of the Act, the restaurant purchased locally approximately $150,000 worth of food, $69,683 or 46% of which was meat that it bought from a local supplier who had procured it from outside the State. The District Court expressly found that a substantial portion of the food served in the restaurant297*297 had moved in interstate commerce.

Now, thanks to the magic of eBay, I submit to the world additional proof that Ollie’s engaged in interstate commerce! Their matchbooks were manufactured by the Universal Match Corporation in Atlanta–across state lines! Read it and weep.


It is impossible to tell exactly when the matchbook was manufactured. The seller on ebay–an expert in matchbook’s–told me “I’m guessing late 50’s to early 60’s. The paper from that time was a bit lighter on the back, but not bright white or smooth like later on.” So this is squarely in the time period in which Ollie’s would have run right into Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Address for “Ollie’s World’s Best Barbecue” was 515 8th Ave., So. Birmingham, Alabama 35205. Nothing is there now. They were in that location until 1999.

So here we have it. Further proof that Ollie’s did engage in interstate commerce!

The McClung’s were apparently quite religious, as their matchbook struck a Christian spark. (Oh that pun was awesome).

On the front, the Matchbook says:

“If you never know me, you’ll miss nothing, If you never know Jesus Christ, you’ll miss everything.”

The back of the matchbook quotes from 2 Chronicles 7:14 (King James Version):

 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.



The Universal Match Corporation, as evidenced by this 1950-era promotional matchbook was located at 317 Buckhead Ave, N.E., Atlanta, Georgia.


Add this to my previous Ollie’s mementos.



And because I am insane, I purchased an entire case of Ollie’s Bar-B-Q sauce.


Update: Timothy Sandefur writes in:

Must be post 1963, since it has a Zip code, and that’s when Zip codes were introduced.

So we are almost definitely talking about a matchbook that post-dated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.