Puffing, Chewing and Dippin’

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American’s love for smoking began early in our history. Among the various types of tobacco were rope cable twist, Bull Durham in a sack, and plug cut. Chewing tobacco was popular too and there were lots of brands to choose from including, plug and twist. Some of the brand names included Wedding Cake, Windsap, Star of Virginia, Rock Candy, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster.

Casing tobacco, as opposed to smoking tobacco, used licorice, molasses, fruit juices and sugar to improve the taste. When I was about twelve one of the baseball players on the local town team offered me a wad of Beech Nut. He forgot to tell me to spit, not swallow the juice. I got so sick that for several years the sweet smell of Beech Nut was enough to cause my stomach to retch.

Smoking materials included cigars and pipes, sold in plug or “plew” as the mountain men called it. They sold tobacco much the same as a slab of bacon. Lone Jack out of Lynchburg, Virginia was a popular brand of pipe tobacco. Out on the picket lines during the Civil War Yanks swapped coffee for Long Jack tobacco. By far the most popular smoking tobacco was Bull Durham.

Before the Civil War cigarettes were considered sissified. You chewed, dipped snuff, smoked cigars or pipes. A good cigar might set you back a nickel. When cigarettes did become more popular the roll-your-own tobacco was preferred. They referred to them as “quirlys.” Cigarette papers were preferred down in south Texas; they rolled them in cornshucks like the Mexicans. The latter didn’t stick so you had to hold while you smoked lest it come unraveled.

You hardly ever heard of a cowboy smoking manufactured cigarettes. They referred to them as “pimp sticks” because only pimps could afford them. The Philadelphia Exposition of 1876 was the first place “ready-mades” were promoted but out West clear up until WWI you hardly ever saw a cowboy smoking them. Both my grandfathers used to regale us by rolling a Bull Durham cigarette with one hand.

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