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A look back at tobacco

Even though it has only been in relatively recent times that the health hazards associated with the use of tobacco products have been universally recognized, many newspapers – including the Alabama Enquirer and others in larger places, such as Birmingham – sometimes gave voice to the opinion that no good could come from it.   

At the same time, they also occasionally noted a successful local farmer who raised tobacco and identified the men who promoted tobacco by visiting local merchants (“drummers”) without showing any disdain for what they were doing. 

April 2, 1885—The dying condition of Gen. Grant ought to be a warning to tobacco users.  Excessive smoking is killing him. Gen. and President Grant died of a very painful throat cancer.  Even with this affliction, he wrote his memoirs so that, after his death, his widow would have royalty income to live on.  At this time, there were no pensions for former presidents and their widows. 

July 17, 1894—”Even Children Smoked”:  When tobacco was introduced to England, King James inveighed against it. Queen Elizabeth liked to sit on a low stool and watch Sir Walter Raleigh puffing away. Once she bet him he could not tell the weight of the smoke in his pipe, but the philosopher won. In Queen Anne’s reign, almost everyone smoked. In King Charles II’s reign, children were sent to school with their pipes in their satchels, and the schoolmasters called a halt in their studies while they smoked. In 1702, says the Westminster Review, one gentleman spent an evening with his brother at Garroway’s Coffee House in Leeds and wrote: “I was surprised to see a sickly child of 8 years old fill its pipe with tobacco and smoke it as frequently as a man of three scores; after that a second and third pipe without the least concern, as it is said to have done above a year ago.” There were about 470 coffee houses in LondonSmoking was general in them, and intoxicants could also be obtained as well as coffee. 

Aug. 31, 1895—”The Deadly Cigarette:  Coon Short, 12 years old, son of General Short, of Stevenson up in Jackson County died yesterday from tobacco heart, caused by excessive cigarette smoking. 

Dec. 31, 1895—“Red eye” was one of the slang names given to whiskey served in Hartselle saloons in its earliest years (the 1870s). Despite some presumed experts saying this was the “good stuff,” that’s not likely true. More likely, it was the bad stuff – made with raw alcohol, burnt sugar and a little chewing tobacco, the last ingredient being another use for tobacco. It was also called Tanglefoot, Forty-Rod, Tarantula Juice, Taos Lightning and Coffin Varnish. 

Sept. 19, 1903—While his neighbors are all growing as much cotton as they can, J. T. Putman is becoming famous in north Alabama as a tobacco raiser with a thriving money-making crop. When properly dried, folks can smoke it, chew it or sniff it, snuff being made from ground or pulverized tobacco leaves.  

July 24, 1915Fannie and Will Tunstell, Hartselle, replenished their supply of snuff and loose tobacco while trading at the S.E. Stewart general merchandise store today. 

Aug. 4, 1917D. C. Murphy, Hartselle 3, bought three plugs of tobacco for .60 cents at the Stewart general merchandise store at the Corner of Bowery and Main streets.