A Bit of Americana

Maryland State Project, circa 1980.

“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:

The then-President of Philip Morris on the cover of the July 4, 1938 issue of TIME Magazine.

Tobacco tins from the 1930s/40s (right) and 1940s/50s (left). The square tin held a cigarette pack while the round tin held 50 loose cigarettes. The name ‘English Blend’ was changed to ‘Special Blend’ in 1948.

Cigarettes are still in this old square tin! They are non-filter tips.

The claims on these 1940s-1960s ads are … shocking, but they are my favorite pieces of tobacco memorabilia and make for interesting wall art. [Click to enlarge.]

Magazine Ads from 1966: Man up! The Marlboro Man (1954-1999) was a huge (re)branding initiative.

These artifacts reveal our changing times.  Despite all the controversy, I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane.