We know that in today's world that smoking tobacco is extremely dangerous to our health, and can eventually cause death. But how did people get started on this habit?
Well, back in the 40s, 50s and 60s smoking was really "cool." If you went to a movie all of the famous, and not so famous, actors lit up and smoked throughout the show. People smoked while walking down the street, in the cafes, and inside all building except when in church.
When I was a little girl, one of my jobs was to roll cigarettes for my brother. A copper colored item about 3 inches by 5 inches opened up where I inserted a cigarette paper, then poured the tobacco onto this, closed the lid and turned the handle to roll the cigarette.
I then opened the box, took out the rolled cigarette and moistened the edge to hold it together.
Men also smoked cigars - and a cigar lasted a lot longer than a cigarette. At family get togethers cigars were smoked while men sat together in the living room and discussing religion and politics. The women always gathered in the kitchen, around the table, and discussed cooking and cleaning. If there were no children present, I chose to sit in my fathers lap and listen to the most interesting discussions and thoroughly enjoyed the smell of the cigars.
Not only did men smoke cigarettes, but they also chewed tobacco. This was an especially disgusting habit because while chewing they had to spit out the juice - it would not have been good to swallow it - so public buildings always had spittoons for that purpose. In our home, we did not have a spittoon but rather an empty coffee can. Another one of my jobs while growing up was to bring the spittoon to my father. Pipes were also popular with older gentlemen.
So how and when did this habit begin? Tobacco has a long history in the America. The Mayan Indians of Mexico carved drawings in stone showing tobacco use. These drawings date back to somewhere between 600 to 900 A. D. Tobacco was grown by American Indians before the Europeans came from England, Spain, France, and Italy to North America. Native Americans smoked tobacco through a pipe for special religious and medical purposes. They did not smoke every day.
Tobacco was the first crop grown for money in North America. In 1612 the settlers of the first American colony in Jamestown, Virginia grew tobacco as a cash crop. It was their main source of money. Other cash crops were corn, cotton, wheat, sugar and soya beans. Tobacco helped pay for the American Revolution against England. Also, the first President of the U.S. grew tobacco.
By the 1800s, many people had begun using small amounts of tobacco. Some chewed it. Others smoked it occasionally in a pipe, or they hand-rolled a cigarette or cigar. On the average, people smoked about 40 cigarettes a year. The first commercial cigarettes were made in 1865 by Washington Duke on his 300-acre farm in Raleigh, N.C. His hand-rolled cigarettes were sold to soldiers at the end of the Civil War.
It was not until James Bonsack invented the cigarette-making machine in 1881 that cigarette smoking became widespread. Bonsack's cigarette machine could make 120,000 cigarettes a day. He went into business with Washington Duke's son, James "Buck" Duke.
They built a factory and made 10 million cigarettes their first year and about one billion cigarettes five years later. The first brand of cigarettes were packaged in a box with baseball cards and were called Duke of Durham. Buck Duke and his father started the first tobacco company in the U.S. They named it the American Tobacco Company.
(Continued next week)