“Money is to a bank as tobacco is to a barn.”
I used this analogy when describing Southern Maryland’s cash crop for a Social Studies project on my home state when I was nine years old. I had developed an understanding that tobacco played a key role in establishing and maintaining the state economically. Nearly twenty years after penning that analogy, I spent six years working in the tobacco industry. The byline on my paycheck every month: “This is tobacco money.”
Like it or not, tobacco is a part of our nation’s history. It has created revenue, benefited state and federal governments through taxation … and caused health problems for many people, including one of my grandfathers who died of lung cancer from years of smoking.
Watching a family member dwindle away to cancer, particularly when caused by personal choice, was difficult. Although my grandfather admitted that it was the old cigarettes that got him, (despite having given them up cold turkey fifteen years earlier at the request of his cardiologist), he assured me that he wouldn’t have changed a thing. He told me not to feel guilty about where I worked. That was rather impossible. I left the tobacco industry shortly afterward.
Life is bittersweet, and I’ve learned to live with that. I find tobacco history fascinating, and I have several pieces of its past. Here’s a sampling:
These artifacts reveal our changing times. Despite all the controversy, I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane.