Tobacco History and culture – Vallarta Factory


The Spanish and Portuguese word tabaco is thought to have originated in Taino, the Arawakan language of the Caribbean. In Taino, it was said to refer either to a roll of tobacco leaves (according to Bartolomé de las Casas, 1552), or to the tabago, a kind of Y-shaped pipe for sniffing tobacco smoke also known as snuff(according to Oviedo; with the leaves themselves being referred to as cohiba).[8]

However, similar words in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian were commonly used from 1410 to define medicinal herbs, originating from the Arabic طبق tabbaq, a word reportedly dating to the 9th century, as the name of various herbs.[9]



Early developments

The earliest depiction of a European man smoking, from Tabacco by Anthony Chute.


Tobacco had already long been used in the Americas when European settlers arrived and introduced the practice to Europe, where it became popular. Many Native American tribes have traditionally grown and used tobacco with some cultivation sites in Mexico dating back to 1400-1000 B.C.[10] Eastern North American tribes carried large amounts of tobacco in pouches as a readily accepted trade item, and often smoked it in peace pipes, either in defined sacred ceremonies, or to seal a bargain,[11] and they smoked it at such occasions in all stages of life, even in childhood.[12] It was believed that tobacco is a gift from the Creator, and that the exhaled tobacco smoke carries one’s thoughts and prayers to heaven.[13]

Before the development of lighter Virginia and White Burley strains of tobacco, the smoke was too harsh to be inhaled traditionally by Native Americans in ceremonial use or by Europeans who used it in the form of pipes and cigars.[14] Inhaling “rough” tobacco without seriously damaging the lungs in the short term required smoking only small quantities at a time using a pipe like the midwakh or kiseru or smoking newly invented waterpipes such as the bong or the hookah (See Thuoc lao for a modern continuance of this practice). Inhaling smoke was already common in the East with the introduction of cannabis and opium millennia before.

Tobacco Timeline

Prehistory: In 2010, tobacco was found that dates to the Pleistocene Era 2.5 million years ago. Paleontologists from the Meyer-Honninger Paleontology Museum discovered the small block of fossilised tobacco in the Maranon river basin in northeastern Peru.

  • Prehistory: As far as human use of tobacco, although small amounts of nicotine may be found in some Old World plants, including belladonna and Nicotiana africana, and nicotine metabolites have been found in human remains and pipes in the Near East and Africa, there is no indication of habitual tobacco use in the Ancient world, on any continent save the Americas.
  • The sacred origin of tobacco and the first pipe (Schoolcraft)
  • c. 6000 BCE: Experts believe the tobacco plant, as we know it today, begins growing in the Americas.
  • c.1 BCE: Experts believe American inhabitants have begun finding ways to use tobacco, including smoking (in a number of variations), chewing and in probably hallucinogenic enemas (by the Peruvian Aguaruna aboriginals).
  • c. 1 CE: Tobacco was “nearly everywhere” in the Americas. (American Heritage Book of Indians, p.41).
  • 470-630 CE: Between 470 and 630 A.D. the Mayas began to scatter, some moving as far as the Mississippi Valley. The Toltecs, who created the mighty Aztec Empire, borrowed the smoking custom from the Mayas who remained behind. Two castes of smokers emerged among them. Those in the Court of Montezuma, who mingled tobacco with the resin of other leaves and smoked pipes with great ceremony after their evening meal; and the lesser Indians, who rolled tobacco leaves together to form a crude cigar. The Mayas who settled in the Mississippi Valley spread their custom to the neighboring tribes. The latter adapted tobacco smoking to their own religion, believing that their god, the almighty Manitou, revealed himself in the rising smoke. And, as in Central America, a complex system of religious and political rites was developed around tobacco. (Imperial Tobacco Canada, Tobacco History)
  • 600-1000 CE: UAXACTUN, GUATEMALA. First pictorial record of smoking: A pottery vessel found here dates from before the 11th century. On it a Maya is depicted smoking a roll of tobacco leaves tied with a string. The Mayan term for smoking was sik’ar


The Chiapas Gift, or The Indians’ Revenge?

Columbus’ sailors find Arawak and Taino Indians smoking tobacco. Some take up the habit and begin to spread it worldwide.


  • 1492-10-12: Columbus Discovers Tobacco; “Certain Dried Leaves” Are Received as Gifts, and Thrown Away.

On this bright morning Columbus and his men set foot on the New World for the first time, landing on the beach of San Salvador Island or Samana Cay in the Bahamas, or Gran Turk Island. The indigenous Arawaks, possibly thinking the strange visitors divine, offer gifts. Columbus wrote in his journal,

the natives brought fruit, wooden spears, and certain dried leaves which gave off a distinct fragrance.

As each item seemed much-prized by the natives; Columbus accepted the gifts and ordered them brought back to the ship. The fruit was eaten; the pungent “dried leaves” were thrown away.


  • 1492-10-15: Columbus Mentions Tobacco. “We found a man in a canoe going from Santa Maria to Fernandia. He had with him some dried leaves which are in high value among them, for a quantity of it was brought to me at San Salvador” — Christopher Columbus’ Journal
  • 1492-11: Jerez and Torres Discover Smoking; Jerez Becomes First European Smoker

Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres, in Cuba searching for the Khan of Cathay (China), are credited with first observing smoking. They reported that the natives wrapped dried tobacco leaves in palm or maize “in the manner of a musket formed of paper.” After lighting one end, they commenced “drinking” the smoke through the other. Jerez became a confirmed smoker, and is thought to be the first outside of the Americas. He brought the habit back to his hometown, but the smoke billowing from his mouth and nose so frightened his neighbors he was imprisoned by the holy inquisitors for 7 years. By the time he was released, smoking was a Spanish craze.


  • 1493: Ramon Pane, a monk who accompanied Columbus on his second voyage, gave lengthy descriptions about the custom of taking snuff. He also described how the Indians inhaled smoke through a Y-shaped tube. Pane is usually credited with being the first man to introduce tobacco to Europe.
  • 1497: Robert Pane, who accompanied Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1493, writes the first report of native tobacco use to appear in Europe, “De Insularium Ribitus.”
  • 1498: Columbus visits Trinidad and Tobago, naming the latter after the native tobacco pipe.
  • 1499: Amerigo Vespucci noticed that the American Indians had a curious habit of chewing green leaves mixed with a white powder. They carried two gourds around their necks — one filled with leaves, the other with powder. First, they put leaves in their mouths. Then, after dampening a small stick with saliva, they dipped it in the powder and mixed the adhering powder with the leaves in their mouths, making a kind of chewing tobacco. (Imperial Tobacco Canada,


Tobacco Timeline: The Sixteenth Century–Sailors Spread the Seeds

Copyright 1993-2003 Gene Borio

The Sixteenth Century–Sailors Spread the Seeds

“All along the sea routes … wherever they had trading posts, the Portuguese began the limited planting of tobacco. Before the end of the sixteenth century they had developed these small farms to a point where they could be assured of enough tobacco to meet their personal needs, for gifts, and for barter. By the beginning of the seventeenth century these farms had, in many places, become plantations, often under native control.”

— Jerome Edmund Brooks, “The Mighty Leaf; Tobacco through the Centuries.” Boston, Little, Brown (1952)

JAPAN: Dutch and Portuguese trading vessels calling at ports in Nagasaki and Kagoshima introduce tobacco. It is spread through the country over the ensuing decades, often by Buddhist monks, who use tobacco seeds to pay for lodging along the routes of their pilgrimages.

  • 1500: BRAZIL: Cabral discovers tobacco; “petum”
  • 1501: SPAIN: Roderigo de Perez is persecuted by the Inquisition for smoking.
  • 1518: MEXICO: JUAN DE GRIJALVA lands in Yucatan, observes cigarette smoking by natives (ATS)
  • 1518: SPAIN: Fernando Cortez brings tobacco to Spain, at the request of Ramon Pane
  • 1519: MEXICO: CORTEZ conquers AZTEC capitol, finds Mexican natives smoking perfumed reed cigarettes.(ATS)

  • 1530: SPAIN: The “roll of tobacco,” precurser to the cigar, becomes popular with the lower classes.
  • 1530: MEXICO: BERNARDINO DE SAHAGUN, missionary in Mexico, distinguishes between sweet commercial tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) and coarse Nicotiana rustica.(ATS)
  • 1531: SANTO DOMINGO: European cultivation of tobacco begins
  • 1534: CUBA, SANTO DOMINGO: “Tall tobacco”–sweet, broadleaved Nicotiana tabacum–is transplanted from Central American mainland to Cuba and Santo Domingo.(ATS)
  • 1535: CANADA: Jacques Cartier encounters natives on the island of Montreal who use tobacco.

“In Hochelaga, at the head of the river in Canada, grows a certain herb which is stocked in large quantities by the natives during the summer season, and on which they set great value. Men alone use it, and after drying it in the sun they carry it around their neck wrapped up in the skin of a small animal, like a sac, with a hollow piece of stone or wood. When the spirit moves them, they pulverize this herb and place it at one end, lighting it with a fire brand, and draw on the other end so long that they fill their bodies with smoke until it comes out of their mouth and nostrils as from a chimney. They claim it keeps them warm and in good health. They never travel without this herb.” — Smoke and Mirrors, p. 30


  • 1548: BRAZIL: Portuguese cultivate tobacco for commercial export.


  • 1554: ANTWERP: ‘Cruydeboeck’ presents first illustration of tobacco. (LB)
  • 1555:Franciscan Friar Andr Thevet of Angouleme reports on Brazil’s Tupinamba Indians’ use of Petun.
  • 1556: FRANCE: Tobacco is introduced. Revolutionary monk Thevet claims he was the first to transplant Nicotiana tabacum from Brazil; many dispute this. In his writings he describes tobacco as a creature comfort. (ATS)
  • 1558: PORTUGAL: Tobacco is introduced.
  • 1559: SPAIN: Tobacco is introduced by Francisco Hernandez de Toledo, Philippe II. of Spain’s personal physician, who had been sent the year before to investigate the products of Mexico. The seeds Hernandez brings back are at first used only to grow ornamental plants in court.


  • 1560: PORTUGAL, FRANCE: Jean Nicot de Villemain, France’s ambassador to Portugal, writes of tobacco’s medicinal properties, describing it as a panacea. Nicot sends rustica plants to French court.
  • 1561: FRANCE: Nicot sends snuff to Catherine de Medici, the Queen Mother of France, to treat her son Francis II’s migraine headaches. She later decrees tobacco be termed Herba Regina (There is confusion in sources: some claim it cured Catherine’s own headaches (by making her sneeze))
  • 1564 or 1565: ENGLAND: Tobacco is introduced into England by Sir John Hawkins and/or his crew. Tobacco is used cheifly by sailors, including those employed by Sir Francis Drake, until the 1580s. (Chroniclers of the day took little note of the customs of sailors. Crews under the command of less famous captains than Hawkins would be given even less notice. But Spanish and Portuguese sailors spread the practice around the world–probably first to fellow sailors at port cities. There is no reason to suppose Hawkins’ crew particularly advanced in comparison to those on other English ships. In sum, there could well have been a small underground of seafaring tobacco users in England for decades before officialdom took notice. Hawkins and his crew are usually given the credit, but in reality, take this with a grain of sea-salt.)
  • 1568: FRANCE: Andre Thevet writes the first description of tobacco use. In Brazil, he wrote, the people smoke it and it cleans the “superfluous humours of the brain”. Thevet smoked it himself. (LB)


  • 1570: Claimed first botanical book on tobacco written by Pena and Lobel of London.(TSW)
  • 1571: GERMANY: MEDICINE: Dr. Michael Bernhard Valentini’s Polychresta Exotica (Exotic Remedies) describes numerous different types of clysters, or enemas. The tobacco smoke clyster was said to be good for the treatment of colic, nephritis, hysteria, hernia, and dysentery.
  • 1571: SPAIN: MEDICINE: Nicholas Monardes writes “De Hierba Panacea”, the first book on tobacco. The Seville doctor reports on the latest craze among Spanish doctors–the wonders of the tobacco plant, which herbalists are growing all over Spain. Monardes lists 36 maladies tobacco cures.
  • 1571:BOOKS: Jos de Acosta, a Spanish Jesuit missionary is sent to Peru; records some of the earliest and most vivid descriptions of Native South American life and tobacco use. ( De natura novi orbis libri duo (Salamanca, 1588-1589)
  • 1573: ENGLAND: Sir Francis Drake returns from the Americas with ‘Nicotina tobacum’. (LB)
  • 1575: MEXICO: LEGISLATION: Roman Catholic Church passes a law against smoking in any place of worship in the Spanish Colonies
  • 1577: ENGLAND: MEDICINE: Frampton translates Monardes into English. European doctors look for new cures–tobacco is recommended for toothache, falling fingernails, worms, halitosis, lockjaw & cancer.


  • 1580: CUBA: European cultivation of tobacco begins
  • 1580: TURKEY: Tobacco arrives (AHS)
  • 1580: POLAND: Tobacco arrives (AHS)
  • 1584-03: ENGLAND: Queen Elizabeth grants Mr. Walter Raleigh a charter for establishing a settlement in America.
  • 1585: ENGLAND: Sir Francis Drake introduces smoking to Sir Walter Raleigh (BD)
  • 1586: Ralph Lane, first governor of Virginia, teaches Sir Walter Raleigh to smoke the long-stemmed clay pipe Lane is credited with inventing (BD).(TSW)
  • 1586: GERMANY: ‘De plantis epitome utilissima’ offers one of first cautions to use of tobacco, calling it a “violent herb”. (LB)
  • 1586: ENGLAND: Tobacco Arrives in English Society. In July 1586, some of the Virginia colonists returned to England and disembarked at Plymouth smoking tobacco from pipes, which caused a sensation. William Camden (1551-1623) a contemporary witness, reports that “These men who were thus brought back were the first that I know of that brought into England that Indian plant which they call Tabacca and Nicotia, or Tobacco” Tobacco in the Elizabethan age was known as “sotweed.” (BD)
  • 1587: ANTWERP: First published work totally on tobacco, ‘De herbe panacea’, with numerous recipies and claims of cures. (LB)
  • 1588: Hariot writes about tobacco in Virginia in A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia


  • 1590: BOOKS: Jos de Acosta ‘s Historia natural y moral de las Indias (Seville, 1590) describes the native use of tobacco in detail.
  • 1590: LITERATURE: Spenser’s Fairie Queen: earliest poetical allusion to tobacco in English literature. (Book III, Canto VI, 32).
  • 1590: BOOKS: Richard Hakluyt, who accompanied Sir Walter Raleigh on his Roanoke expedition, publishes his comprehensive anthology: The Principall Navigations. Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation, Made by Sea or Overland to the Most Remote and Farthest Distant Quarters of the Earth at Any Time within the Compasse of these 1500 Years.
  • 1592-98: KOREA: Hideyoshi Invasion from Japan. Japan, which has maintained contact with Portuguese merchants, introduce the practice of smoking to Korea.
  • 1595: ENGLAND: BOOKS: Tabacco, the first book in the English language devoted to the subject of tobacco, is published
  • 1595 (approx.): Matoaka is born to Chief Powhatan. She is given the nickname Pocahontas–“Frisky,” “Playful One” or “Mischief”

·  1596: LITERATURE: Ben Jonson’s Every Man in His Humor is acted on the 25th of November, 1596, and printed in 1601. In Act III, Scene 2, Bobadilla (pro) and Cob (con) argue about tobacco. (BD)


An Illustration from Frederick William Fairholt‘s Tobacco, its History and Association, 1859.

Following the arrival of the Europeans, tobacco became increasingly popular as a trade item. It fostered the economy for the southern United States until it was replaced by cotton. Following the American civil war, a change in demand and a change in labor force allowed inventor James Bonsack to create a machine that automated cigarette production.

This increase in production allowed tremendous growth in the tobacco industry until the scientific revelations of the mid-20th century.

  • 1800s: FRANCE: “Lorettes” — prostitutes near the Notre Dame de Lorettes church–are the first women to smoke publicly.
  • 1800: CANADA: Tobacco begins being commercially grown in Southern Ontario.
  • 1804-06: LEWIS AND CLARK explore Northwest, using gifts of tobacco as “life insurance.”
  • 1805-7: CERIOLI isolates nicotine, the “essential oil” or “essence of tobacco”
  • 1805-12-25: LEWIS AND CLARK: First Christmas in the Northwest. The Lewis & Clark party, having built a winter encampment at Fort Clatsop (OR), celebrates Christmas. Clark writes: “at day light this morning we we[re] awoke by the discharge of the fire arm of all our party & a Selute, Shoute and a Song which the whole party joined in under our windows, after which they retired to their rooms were Chearfull all the morning– after brackfast we divided our Tobacco which amounted to 12 carrots one half of which we gave to the men of the party who used tobacco, and to those who doe not use it we make a present of a handkerchief.”
  • 1806-03-07: LEWIS AND CLARK. Patrick Gass, holed up with the expedition in Fort Clatsup, OR, writes, “Among our other difficulties, we now experience the want of tobacco. We use crabtree bark as a substitute.”
  • 1809: SCIENCE: FRANCE: Louis Nicolas Vanquelin isolates nicotine from tobacco smoke.


  • 1810: CONNECTICUT: Cuban cigar-roller brought to Suffield to train local workers. (ATS)
  • 1811: POETRY: A Farewell to Tobacco Charels Lamb
  • 1818: REGULATION: PA: Smoking is banned on the streets of Lancaster. The first man to break the law and pay the 20 shilling fine is Mayor John Passmore.
  • 1817: BUSINESS: SPAIN deregulates the growing, processing and selling of tobacco.


  • 1820: American traders open the Santa Fe trail, find ladies of that city smoking “seegaritos.” (ATS)
  • 1822: BUSINESS: SWEDEN: Jacob Frederik Ljunglof begins manufacturing snus.
  • 1822: Hermbstdt isolates nicotine and calls the causa efficiens of nicotianas Nicotianin.”
  • 1823: C. Clement Moore’s 1823 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” describes Santa Claus as pipe-smoker.
  • 1824: LA: AGRICULTURE: Acadian Pierre Chenet, nicknamed “Perique”, begins growing the tobacco of the Choctaw Indians commercially in St. James Parish. He also refines the fermenting process for the pungent tobacco.
  • 1826: ENGLAND is importing 26 pounds of cigars a year. The cigar becomes so popular that within four years, England will be importing 250,000 pounds of cigars a year.
  • 1827: ENGLAND: First friction match invented. Chemist John Walker uses phosphorus (discovered in 1666) atop a wooden stick, calls his invention “Congreves,” after the rocket maker. Later they became known as “lucifers”, then “matches.” See the history here:
  • 1828: SPAIN:The cigarette becomes popular as a new way of smoking.They are sold individually, and in “rolls.”
  • 1828: GERMANY: Heidelberg students Ludwig Reimann and Wilhelm Heinrich Posselt are credited with first isolating nicotine in a pure form; the active ingredient being the alkaloid C10H14N2. They write exhaustive dissertations on the pharmacology of nicotine, concluding it is a “dangerous poison.”


  • 1830s: TOBACCO CONTROL: First organized anti-tobacco movement in US begins as adjunct to the temperance movement. Tobacco use is considered to dry out the mouth, “creating a morbid or diseased thirst” which only liquor could quench..
  • 1830: PRUSSIA: Prussian Government enacts a law that cigars , in public, be smoked in a sort of wire-mesh contraption designed to prevent sparks setting fire to ladies’ “crinolines” and hoop skirts. (BD)
  • 1832: TURKEY: Invention of the paper-rolled cigarette? While Southwest Indians, Aztecs and Mayans had used hollow reeds, cane or maize to fashion cylindrical tobacco-holders, and Sevillians had rolled cigar-scraps in thrown-away paper (papeletes), an Egyptian artilleryman [in the Turk/Egyptian war] is credited with the invention of the cigarette as we know it. In the siege of Acre, the Egyptian’s cannon crew had improved their rate of fire by rolling the gunpowder in paper tubes. For this, he and his crew were rewarded with a pound of tobacco. Their sole pipe was broken, however, so they took to rolling the pipe tobacco in the paper. The invention spread among both Egyptian and Turkish soldiers. And thus . . . (Good-Bye to All That, 1970)
  • 1832: AGRICULTURE: TUCK patents curing method for Virginia leaf.
  • 1832: BOOKS: Domestinc Manners of the Americans by Frances Trollope
[In New York] we saw the Park Theatre to advantage, for it was filled with well-dressed company; but still we saw many “yet unrazored lips” polluted with the grim tinge of the hateful tobacco, and heard, without ceasing, the spitting, which of course is its consequence. If their theatres had the orchestra of the Feydeau, and a choir of angels to boot, I could find but little pleasure, so long as they were followed by this running accompaniment of _thorough base_.”

  • 1833-02-27 RELIGION: In Kirtland, OH, Mormon founder Joseph Smith announces to church leaders that God opposes strong drinks, hot drinks and tobacco. This proclamation becomes known as the “Word of Wisdom,” but considered as counsel or advice, rather than a commandment.
  • 1836: USA: Samuel Green of the New England Almanack and Farmers Friend writes that tobacco is an insectide, a poison, a fillthy habit, and can kill a man. (LB)
  • 1839: AGRICULTURE: NORTH CAROLINA: SLADE “yallercure” presages flue-cured Bright tobacco. Charcoal used in flue-curing for the first time in North Carolina. Not only cheaper, its intense heat turns the thinner, low-nicotine Piedmont leaf a brilliant golden color. This results in the classic American “Bright leaf” variety, which is so mild it virtually invites a smoker to inhale it.(RK), (ATS) (Legend has it that one night, an 18-year-old slave named Peter was assigned to keep watch over a barn of tobacco on the Slade Farm, tending the fire, feeding it just enough wood to push a steady, smoky heat through the barn. He fell asleep, and only woke up after a rainstorm had cooled the barn–and drenched his wood. Desperate, he got some charcoal from the blacksmith shop and used it to superheat the barn. This process accidentally turned the tobacco golden, and imbued it with a mild, buttery taste. Thus was the bright-leaf tobacco industry was born.)


  • 1840: BUSINESS: Miflin Marsh begins Marsh Wheeling Cigars in his Wheeling, WV, home.
  • 1840: Boston, MA, bans smoking as fire hazard.
  • 1842: USA: Charles Dickens in, “American Notes for General Circulation‚Äù describes Washington, DC as the ‚Äúthe head-quarters of tobacco-tinctured saliva:” “Both Houses are handsomely carpeted; but the state to which these carpets are reduced by the universal disregard of the spittoon with which every honourable member is accommodated, and the extraordinary improvements on the pattern which are squirted and dabbled upon it in every direction, do not admit of being described. I will merely observe, that I strongly recommend all strangers not to look at the floor; and if they happen to drop anything, though it be their purse, not to pick it up with an ungloved hand on any account. It is somewhat remarkable too, at first, to say the least, to see so many honourable members with swelled faces; and it is scarcely less remarkable to discover that this appearance is caused by the quantity of tobacco they contrive to stow within the hollow of the cheek. It is strange enough, too, to see an honourable gentleman leaning back in his tilted chair, with his legs on the desk before him, shaping a convenient “plug” with his penknife, and, when it is quite ready for use, shooting the old one from his mouth as from a pop-gun, and clapping the new one in its place.”
  • 1842: CHINA: OPIUM WAR. Treaty of Nanjing forces China to accept opium from British traders
  • 1843: FRANCE: SEITA monopoly begins manufacture of cigarettes.
  • 1843: MEDICINE: The correct molecular formula of nicotine is established
  • 1845: JOHN QUINCY ADAMS writes to the Rev. Samuel H. Cox: “In my early youth I was addicted to the use of tobacco in two of its mysteries, smoking and chewing. I was warned by a medical friend of the pernicious operation of this habit upon the stomach and the nerves.”
  • 1845: BOOKS: Prosper Merimee’s novel, Carmen, about a cigarette girl in an Andalusian factory, is published
  • 1846-1848: MEXICAN WAR US soldiers bring back from the Southwest a taste for the darker, richer tobacco favored in Latin countries–cigarros and cigareillos–leading to an explosive increase in the use of the cigar. (The South remains firmly attached to chewing tobacco.)
  • 1847: ENGLAND: Philip Morris opens shop; sells hand-rolled Turkish cigarettes.
  • 1848: GERMANY: REGULATION: Abolition of the last restrictions in Berlin (AHS)
  • 1848: ITALY: “Tobacco War” erupts as Italians stop smoking to protest AUSTRIAN control of the tobacco monopoly. When Austrian soldiers smoke cigars on the street, deadly riots break out.
  • 1849: BUSINESS: J.E. Liggett and Brother is established in St. Louis, Mo., by John Edmund Liggett
  • 1849: CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH: One commentator writes of this period: “I have seen purer liquors, better seegars, finer tobacco, truer guns and pistols, larger dirks and bowie knives, and prettier cortezans, here in San Francisco than in any place I have ever visited, and it is my unbiased opinion that California can and does furnish the best bad things that are obtainable in America.”


  • 1852:Washington Duke, a young tobacco farmer, builds a modest, two-story home near Durham, NC, for himself and his new bride. The house, and the log structure which served as a “tobacco factory” after the Civil War may still be seen at the Duke Homestead Museum.
  • 1852: Matches are introduced, making smoking more convenient.
  • 1853-1856: EUROPE: CRIMEAN WAR British soldiers learn how cheap and convenient the cigarettes (“Papirossi”) used by their Turkish allies are, and bring the practise back to England. The story goes that the English captured a Russian train loaded with provisions–including cigarettes…
  • 1854: ENGLAND: BUSINESS: London tobacconist Philip Morris begins making his own cigarettes. Old Bond Street soon becomes the center of the retail tobacco trade.
  • 1854: FRIEDRICH TIEDEMANN writes the first exhaustive treatment on tobacco.
  • 1854: First North American patent for a fire-safe (self-extinguishing) cigarette is registered. (Bristol 11.409)
  • 1855: J.E. Lundstrom invents the safety match, which requires a special striking surface.
  • 1855: “Annual Report of the New York Anti-Tobacco Society for 1855” calls tobacco a “fashionable poison,” warns against addiction and claims half of all deaths of smokers between 35 and 50 were caused by smoking.
  • 1856-1857: ENGLAND: A running debate among readers about the health effects of tobacco runs in the British medical journal, Lancet. The argument runs as much along moral as medical lines, with little substantiation.(RK)
  • 1856: BUSINESS: NORTHERN IRELAND: Tom Gallaher begins a business making Irish roll tobacco in Londonderry.
  • 1856-1857: ENGLAND: The country’s first cigarette factory is opened by Crimean vet Robert Gloag, manufacturing “Sweet Threes” (GTAT)
  • 1856: PEOPLE: James Buchanan “Buck” Duke is born to Washington “Wash” Duke, an independent farmer who hated the plantation class, opposed slavery, and raised food and a little tobacco.
  • 1857: BUSINESS: NORTHERN IRELAND: Gallaher is founded in Londonderry by Tom Gallaher. Later, he moved the firm to Belfast.
  • 1858: Treaty of Tianjin allows cigarettes to be imported into China duty-free.
  • 1858: First Chinese Immigrant arrives in New York City, Sells Cigars. Ah Ken moves into a house on Mott St., opens a cigar store on Park Row. ( Low Life, Sante, 1991)
  • 1858: Fears are first raised about the health effects of smoking in The Lancet
  • 1859: Reverend George Trask publishes tract “Thoughts and stories for American Lads: Uncle Toby’s anti-tobacco advice to his nephew Billy Bruce”. He writes, “Physicians tell us that twenty thousand or more in our own land are killed by [tobacco] every year (LB)


  • 1860: The Census for Virginia and North Carolina list 348 tobacco factories, virtually all producing chewing tobacco. Only 6 list smoking tobacco as a side-product (which is manufactured from scraps left over from plug production).
  • 1860: BUSINESS: Manufactured cigarettes appear. A popular early brand is Blackwell Tobacco Company’s Bull Durham, which rose to become the most famous brand in world, and gave rise to the term “bull pen” for a baseball dugout.
  • 1860: BUSINESS: MARKETING: Lorillard wraps $100 bills at random in packages of cigarette tobacco named “Century,” in order to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the firm (BD)
  • 1861-1865: USA: THE CIVIL WAR: Tobacco is given with rations by both North and South; many Northerners are introduced to tobacco this way. During Sherman’s march, Union soldiers, now attracted to the mild, sweet “bright” tobacco of the South, raided warehouses–including Washington Duke’s–for some chew on the way home. Some bright made it all the way back. Bright tobacco becomes the rage in the North.
  • 1862: THE CIVIL WAR: First federal USA tax on tobacco; instituted to help pay for the Civil War, yields about three million dollars.(TSW)
  • 1863: SUMATRA: Nienhuys creates Indonesian tobacco industry. Dutch businessman Jacobus Nienhuys travels to Sumatra seeking to buy tobacco, but finds poor growing and production facilities; his efforts to rectify the situation are credited with establishing the indonesian tobacco industry.
  • 1863: US Mandates Cigar Boxes. Congress passes a law calling for manufacturers to create cigar boxes on which IRS agents can paste Civil War excise tax stamps. The beginning of “cigar box art.”
  • 1864: CIVIL WAR: The first federal cigarette excise tax is imposed to help pay for the Civil War.
  • 1864: AGRICULTURE: WHITE BURLEY first cultivated in Ohio Valley; highly absorbent, chlorophyll-deficient new leaf proves ideal for sweetened chewing tobacco.
  • 1864: BUSINESS: 1st American cigarette factory opens and produces almost 20 million cigarettes.
  • 1865-70: NEW YORK CITY: Demand for exotic Turkish cigarettes grows in New York City; skilled European rollers imported by New York tobacco shops. (ATS)
  • 1868: UK: Parliament passes the Railway Bill of 1868, which mandates smoke-free cars to prevent injury to non-smokers.
  • 1868/69?: BUSINESS: Allen & Gintner’s Sweet Caporals brand is introduced.


  • 1870: CONSUMPTION: US has its lowest per capita smoking¬†rate on record – 0.4 cigarettes (The Tax Burden on Tobacco, Historical Compilation¬†Volume 35, 2000)
  • 1871: SMOKEFREE: Smoking is banned on the US House floor.
  • 1871: TAXES: The federal income tax, instituted in 1862, is repealed, replaced by liquor and tobacco taxes to finance the federal budget.
  • 1873: BUSINESS: Philip Morris dies. (Yes, that Philip Morris) His wife, Margaret, and brother, Leopold, take over.
  • 1873: Myers Brothers and Co. markets “Love” tobacco with theme of North-South Civil War reconcilliation.
  • 1874: BUSINESS: Washington Duke, with his sons Benjamin N. Duke and James Buchanan Duke, builds his first tobacco factory
  • 1874: BUSINESS: Samuel Gompers creates the first Union label; persuades a consortium of California cigar makers to apply a label that attest the cigar has been untouched by Chinese labor.
  • 1875: BUSINESS: Allen and Ginter offer a reward of $75,000 for cigarette rolling machine. (LB)
  • 1875: BUSINESS: R. J. Reynolds founds R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company to produce chewing tobacco, soon producing brands like Brown’s Mule, Golden Rain, Dixie’s Delight, Yellow Rose, Purity.
  • 1875: BUSINESS: Richmond, VA: Allen & Ginter cigarette brands (“Richmond Straight Cut No. 1,” “Pet”) begin using picture cards to stiffen the pack and give the buyer a premium. Some themes: “Fifty Scenes of Perilous Occupations,” “Flags of All Nations,” boxers, actresses, famous battles, etc. The cards are a huge hit.(RK)
  • 1875: ART: Georges Bizet’s opera, Carmen, based on Merimee’s novel about a cigarette girl in an Andalusian factory, opens.
  • 1876: CENNTENNIAL CELEBRATION: PHILADELPHIA: Allen & Ginter’s cigarette displays are so impressive that some writers thought the Philadelphia exposition marked the birth of the cigarette as well as the telephone. (CC)
  • 1876: Benson & Hedges receives its first royal warrant from Edward VII, Prince of Wales.
  • 1876-11-07: Albert H. Hook of New York City is granted a US patent for a cigarette manufacturing machine.
  • 1878: BUSINESS: J.E. Liggett & Brother incorporates as Liggett & Myers Company. By 1885 Liggett is world’s largest plug tobacco manufacturer; doesn’t make cigarettes until the 1890’s
  • 1878: BUSINESS: Trading cards and coupons begin being widely used in cigarette packs. Edward Bok suggested to a manufacturer that the blank “cardboard stiffeners” in the “cigarette sandwich’, might have biographies on one side and pictures on the other. The American News Company-distributed Marquis of Lorne cigarettes were the first to have the new picture cards in each pack (GTAT)


  • 1880: CONSUMPTION: US has a¬†per capita smoking¬†rate of 8 cigarettes (The Tax Burden on Tobacco, Historical Compilation¬†Volume 35, 2000)
  • 1880: ENGLAND: BUSINESS: Leopold Morris buys Margaret’s share of the Philip Morris business, and brings in a new partner.
  • 1880s: USA: Women’s Christian Temperance Movement publishes a “Leaflet for Mothers’ Meetings” titled “Narcotics”, by Lida B. Ingalls. Discusses evils of tobacco, especially cigarettes. Cigarettes are “doing more to-day to undermine the constitution of our young men and boys than any other one evil” (p. 7). (LB)
  • 1880s: Cigarette cards, previously only used as stiffeners, begin displaying pictures.
  • 1880s: ADVERTISING: Improvements in transportation, manufacturing volume, and packaging lead to the ability to sell the same branded product nationwide. What can be sold nationwide can and must be advertised nationwide. Advertising agencies sprout like wildflowers. The most advertised product throughout most of the 19th century: elixirs and patent medicines of the “cancer cure” variety.
  • 1880s: ENGLAND: BUSINESS: Mssrs. Richard Benson and William Hedges open a tobacconist shop near Philip Morris in London.(RK)
  • 1880s. BUSINESS: JB Duke’s aggressive saleman Edward Featherston Small hires a cigarette saleswoman, Mrs. Leonard.

In .St. Louis, when retailers ignored him, Small advertised for a saleswoman. A petite, thin-lipped widow, a Mrs. Leonard, applied for the job and was accepted. This little stunt gave the Dukes thousands of dollars of free publicity in the local newspapers.


  • 1880: BUSINESS: Bonsack machine granted first cigarette machine patent
  • 1881: ENGLAND: BUSINESS: Philip Morris goes public.
  • 1881: BUSINESS James Buchanan (“Buck”) Duke enters the manufacturered cigarette business, moving 125 Russian Jewish immigrants to Durham, NC. First cigarette: Duke of Durham brand. Duke’s factory produces 9.8 million cigarettes, 1.5 % of the total market.
  • 1883: BUSINESS: First documented use of “Lucky Strike” (named for the 1849 California Gold Rush) as a brand name. R.A. Patterson’s 1886 application for trademark status of “Lucky Strike” states that, ‘This trademark has been used continuously in business by us and those from whom we derive our title since jan 1, 1883.’ [THANKS to Joe Cohen of, who has been researching this history.]
  • 1883: BUSINESS: Oscar Hammerstien receives patent on cigar rolling machine.(TSW)
  • 1883: US ends the 1862 Civil War excise tax on cigars, helping to usher in a 40-year Golden Age of cigar smoking.
  • 1884: BUSINESS: Duke heads to New York City to take his tobacco business national and form a cartel that eventually becomes the American Tobacco Co. Duke buys 2 Bonsack machines., getting one of them to produce 120,000 cigarettes in 10 hours by the end of the year. In this year Duke produces 744 million cigarettes, more than the national total in 1883. Duke’s airtight contracts with Bonsack allow him to undersell all competitors.
  • 1885: ENGLAND: BUSINESS: Leopold Morris joins with Joseph Grunebaum to establish Philip Morris & Company and Grunebaum, Ltd.
  • 1886: BUSINESS: Patent received for machine to manufacture plug tobacco. (LB)
  • 1886: BUSINESS: Tampa, FL: Don Vicente Martinez Ybor opens his first cigar factory. Others follow. Within a few years, Ybor city will become the cigar capital of the US.
  • 1886: BUSINESS: JB Duke targets women with “Cameo” brand.
  • 1887: ENGLAND: BUSINESS: Leopold Morris and Grunebaum dissolve their partnership. Company becomes Philip Morris & Co., Ltd.
  • 1887: PALESTINE: A traveler reports that the Arabs of the Syrian Desert get giddy and headaches from a few whiffs of tobacco. They smoke a local plant ‘Hyoscyamus’. (LB)
  • 1887: USA: Advice from the cigar and tobacco price list of M. Breitweiser and Brothers of Buffalo, Item #5 — “If you think smoking injurious to your health, stop smoking in the morning”. (LB)
  • 1887: USA: Two men held pipe smoking contest that lasted one and a half hours. Victory was declared when one man filled his pipe for the tenth time, his oppenent did not. (LB)
  • 1887: BUSINESS: His contracts with Bonsack unknown to his competitors, Buck Duke slashes prices, sparking a price war he knew he’d win.
  • 1887: BUSINESS: Connorton’s Tobacco Brand Directory of the United States lists St. Louis as No. 1 in tobacco output.
  • 1889: SCIENCE: Nicotine and nerve cells reported on. Langley and Dickinson publish landmark studies on the effects of nicotine on the ganglia; they hypothesize that there are receptors and transmitters that respond to stimulation by specific chemicals. (RK)
  • 1889: USA: ADVERTISING: Buck Duke spends an unheard-of $800,000 in billboard and newspaper advertising.
  • 1889-04-23: BUSINESS: The five leading cigarette firms, including W. Duke Sons & Company, unite. James Buchanan “Buck” Duke emerges as the president of the new American Tobacco Company.
  • 1889: Lung cancer is an extremely rare disease: there are only 140 documented cases worldwide ( Kaminsky M. Ein primres Lungencarcinom mit verhornten Plattenepithelien. Greifswald: Inaug. Diss, 1898.)


  • 1890: CONSUMPTION: US has a¬†per capita smoking¬†rate of 35 cigarettes (The Tax Burden on Tobacco, Historical Compilation¬†Volume 35, 2000)
  • 1890: CONSUMPTION: Peak of chewing tobacco consumption in U. S., three pounds per capita. (ATS)
  • c.1890s: USA: Women’s Christian Temperance Movement publishes “Narcotics”, by E. B. Ingalls. Pamphlet discusses evils of numerous drugs, tobacco, cocaine, ginger, hashish, and headache medicines. Offers 16 suggestions to workers. (LB)
  • c.1890s: INDONESIA: BUSINESS: “Kretek” cigarettes invented. The story is that Noto Semito of Kudus was desperate to cure his asthma. He rolled tobacco mixed with crushed cloves in dried corn leaves–and cured his respiratory ailments. He then Began manufacturing clove cigarettes under the name BAL TIGA (Three Balls). He became a millionaire, but competition was so fierce he eventurally died penniless in 1953.
  • c.1890-92: IRAN: Tobacco Rebellion, aka Tobacco Riots. Iranian Islamic clergy, angered by the Shah’s “tobacco concession” to England, issue a fatwa banning tobacco use and trade. The resulting public revolt forces the Shah to revoke the concession presages a century of revolts over foreign influence.
  • 1890: BUSINESS: Key West, with a population of 18,786, is the largest city in Florida. Its biggest industry is cigar-making, which employs more than 2,000 workers.
  • 1890: “Tobacco” appears in the US Pharmacopoeia, an official government listing of drugs.
  • 1890: REGULATION: 26 states and territories have outlawed the sale of cigarettes to minors (age of a “minor” in a particulary state could be anything from 14-24.)
  • 1890: REGULATION: PAKISTAN: The Railways Act prohibits smoking in railway compartments without the consent of fellow passengers. (Repealed in 1959 by then-provicial governemtn of West Pakistan)
  • 1890: BUSINESS: Dukes establish the American Tobacco Company, which will soon monopolize the entire US tobacco industry. ATC will be dissolved in Anti-Trust action in 1911.
  • 1890: LITERATURE: My Lady Nicotine, by Sir James Barrie, London
  • 1892: REGULATION: Reformers petition Congress to prohibit the manufacture, importation and sale of cigarettes. The Senate Committee on Epidemic Diseases, while agreeing that cigarettes are a public health hazard, finds that only the states have the authority to act. The committee urges the petitioners to seek redress from state legislatures.
  • 1892: BUSINESS: Book matches are invented, but are a technological failure. Since the striking surface was inside the book, all the matches caught fire often. By 1912, the technology would be perfected.
    “In the 1890s, the Diamond Match Company opened a paper-matchbook production facility in Barberton, OH. A Diamond Match salesman, Henry Traute, is not only credited with putting an end to pocket fires ‚Äì by insisting that the striker be moved from the inside to the outside of the matchbook ‚Äì but also with sparking the use of matchbooks as an advertising medium. Traute‚Äôs first customers were the Pabst Brewery in Milwaukee, which bought 10 million matchbooks advertising Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. James Duke, a tobacco tycoon, purchased 30 million books.” [State v. RJR, 12/30/04.
  • 1893: PEOPLE: Cigar-smoking President Grover Cleveland is secretly operated on for cancer of the mouth.
  • 1893: SCIENCE: Pure nicotine is first synthesized by Pictet and Crepieux.
  • 1893: REGULATION: The state of Washington bans the sale and use of cigarettes. The law is overturned on constitutional grounds as a restraint of free trade.
  • 1894: BUSINESS: By now, Philip Morris passes from the troubled Morris family, to the control of William Curtis Thompson and his family (RK).
  • 1894: BUSINESS: Brown & Williamson formed as a partnership in Winston-Salem, NC,, making mostly plug, snuff and pipe tobacco. (RK).
  • 1894: LITERATURE: Under Two Flags by Ouida (Louise de la Ramee). Cigarette, the waif heroine “Rides like an Arab, Smokes like a Zouave.” Cigarette is describes as “Enfant de L’armee, Femme de la Fume, Soldat de la France.”
  • 1894: AGRICULTURE: ZIMBABWE begins growing tobacco.
  • 1895: ADVERTISING: First known motion picture commercial is made, an ad for Admiral cigarettes produced by Thomas A. Edison’s company.
  • 1896: REGULATION: Smoking banned in the House; chewing still allowed
  • 1898: SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR: Congress raises taxes on cigarettes 200%
  • 1898: LITIGATION: Tennessee Supreme Court upholds a total ban on cigarettes, ruling they are “not legitimate articles of commerce, because wholly noxious and deleterious to health. Their use is always harmful.”
  • 1899: Lucy Payne Gaston, who claims that young men who smoke develop a distinguishable “cigarette face,” founds the Chicago Anti-Cigarette League, which grows by 1911 to the Anti-Cigarette League of America, and by 1919 to the Anti-Cigarette League of the World.
  • 1899: HEALTH: First edition of the Merck Manual is published; it recommends smoking tobacco to treat bronchitis and asthma.
  • 1899: TAXES: The Senate Finance Committee, in secret session, rolls back the wartime excise tax on cigarettes.(RK)
  • 1899: BUSINESS: Benson & Hedges open a tony shop on 5th Avenue in New York City, providing elegant cigarettes for the carriage trade.
  • 1899: BUSINESS: Liggett & Myers taken into Duke’s Tobacco Trust. Duke has finally won the Bull Durham brand of chew. Bull Durham is the most famous trademark in the world, giving rise to the term ‚Äúbull pen‚Äù (from a Bull Durham ad painted behind the Yankees‚Äô dugout), and ‚Äúshooting the bull‚Äù (most likely from chewing tobacco). The bull was advertised all over the world, and even painted on the Great Pyramid of Egypt.
  • 1899: BUSINESS: KOREA: Korea Tobacco and Ginseng (KTG) is founded as a state monopoly on ginseng. The monopoly was expanded to include tobacco in 1921.
  • 1899: BUSINESS: RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company incorporates..
  • 1899: BUSINESS: Pall Mall brand is introduced by Butler & Butler Tobacco Co. in New York.