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Monday, March 19, 2012


Since the late 1780's, when the first tobacco ad's started to appear, tobacco manufacturers were pioneers of advertising and marketing. They actually revolutionized the American Way of doing business. The strength of tobacco advertising is in the imagery and the power of suggestion. It began in the 1880s with alluring poster art. In tobacco shops the "American Girl" adorned their walls--an Enchantress.

The innocent looking images in tobacco advertising were part of the new wave of product promotion, such as premiums for purchasing their merchandise. Tins, tin tags, labels, insert cards including the first baseball cards, mini silk rugs, etc. Which is what helped to transform America into a nation of smokers by 1900.

Lets go back further in the history of tobacco and America.

Tobacco and America discovered at the same time?
The boat crew Columbus sent forth in 1492 to explore the island of Guahani (later renamed San Salvador) saw some of the native islanders carrying small lighted "firebrands" in which they burned a "strange herb" and inhaled.

The "strange herb" is first believed to have been taken to Europe around the mid 1500's over a half century later. Spain to be exact, where it was cultivated for medicinal and ornamental purposes. It then made its journey throughout Europe. Deemed as one of the wonders of the world.

Colonial America
England was the first country in Europe to truly adopt smoking. The demand
became so great that attention was turned to the new colonies for the growing of tobacco. Jamestown,Virginia a colonial settlement supposedly is where it began. History claims that John Rolfe was the first white man to cultivate tobacco successfully. He made it his principal crop of the his plantation,Varnia, on the James River, to which he took his bride, Pochohontas, the daughter of Chief Powhatan.

Virginians saw that the Indians regarded tobacco second in importance only to the corn crop. Gifts of tobacco accompanied the native's friendship. The peace pipe as we call it today was shared often. The cigarette was as yet unknown.

Growing and cultivating tobacco successfully is what established Virginia as a colony and the opportunity to provide and exchange goods with the mother country England where demand was great.

Cigar Store Indian
Since tobacco was regarded as a gift by native American's to the new colonies it does seem natural to use the image of an Indian to market your product to the masses. Tobacco shops across America used the image in front of their businesses. What other symbol could of been more representative than this figure to stand in the shadow of their doorways.

Wooden Indians in their approximate 30 year period of peak popularity (between 1850-1880), were mass produced for that time period of our history. It is estimated that from 80,000 to 100,000 cigar store figures were cast or carved in the United States. It is believed there are less than 3,000 that survive today.

Modernization-Demise of the Cigar Store Indian

The demise of cigar store Indians came slowly. They simply became a burden. Shop owners probably grew tired of lugging and pushing the heavy figures around. Many were taken to the city dumps, others thrown into rivers, and some became firewood. The rest were vandalized, stolen or rotted away. Since most were outside they tended to rot if made of wood despite periodically pouring linseed oil down a special hole drilled in the figure's head.

Mostly it was the new improved way of marketing tobacco that was needed so the Cigar Shop Indian began to disappear.

This is a three part look at Tobacco,the manufacturers ingenious promotions,and the ongoing struggle to ban smoking. Stay tuned for the next two parts!!

1 comment:

  1. I got my first electronic cigarette kit at VaporFi, and I enjoy it a lot.