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Monday, September 19, 2016

The "Death In a Wrapper: Part I - How It All Began" Story

Rows of different varieties of tobacco in Lancaster County, PA.
 It was an ordinary day.  Driving the back roads of Lancaster County looking for some photos I can use in the future to add to a story or two.  The farm land is beautiful with so many shades of green broken by the white barns of the farms that dot the landscape. Amish farms fill most of the landscape and are easy to recognize by: lines of wash with traditional Amish clothes, young children riding scooters and bicycles, the lack of any electric lines leading from the road to the farm or farmhouse and the groups of Amish farmers harvesting their row after row of tobacco the old fashioned way ... by hand.  
Lancaster County Amish farm.  Click on the image and
you will be able to see clothing strung on a wash line
to the right of the farm house on the right of the photo.
I wrote a story last year about this time talking about Amish harvesting their tobacco.  Never thought about what happens to that tobacco after it is harvested. Began to bring back memories from my high school days when I smoked for perhaps a year or two.  That was until I met and dated a young girl named Carol who told me she wouldn't date me any more if I smoked.  I not only stopped smoking, I married her!  I credit her with saving my life!  My story today and over the next few day deal with tobacco and how this terrible habit of tobacco use all began.  I think you will see that Lancaster County, Pennsylvania was a major player in the production of the tobacco that was used in cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco. Tobacco, unlike livestock, chickens and the like is indigenous to the Americas.  

Native and Colonial Americans celebrate an event
by sharing tobacco in this early etching.

 When the Europeans arrived in North America the Native Americans introduced their visitors to tobacco, since smoking was an integral part of Indian healing and religious ceremonies.  It seems it was also part of treaty signings and conferences shortly after the Europeans arrived.  The new colonists began to raise their own tobacco so they too could look neat smoking a "stogie", which by the way got it's name in Lancaster.  Seems the wagon masters on the Conestoga Wagons would smoke long cigars using coarser leaves that gave off a strong aroma which became known as a "stogie".  
Among 18th-century Europeans, tobacco smoking indicated
a high social class. In this 1793 etching by James Gillray,
wealthy men are seen indulging in tobacco at what
was known as a "smoking club".
Proprietor William Penn wanted his colony in what is now Pennsyl- vania to be a major exporter of the crop, so Lancaster, known as the "Garden Spot of America" due to it's superior soil, began to grow the crop.  The growing of tobacco for commercial purposes really took off after the American Civil War when many farmers in Lancaster, as well as in nearby York, PA, began growing the product.  Went well with farming cattle since the manure feeds the nutrient demanding tobacco crop.  Even today, Lancaster County still produces the most tobacco in Pennsylvania with a yield of near 16.4 million pounds.  In the past I have posted stories about the Amish and their method of harvesting their tobacco crop.  It really is no different than their "English" neighbors, as the other farmers of the county are called, since all tobacco is still harvested by hand as it was back when the Indians were raising their tobacco. Well, so much for how the terrible habit of tobacco use came to be. I know it seems as if I may be prejudiced as far as tobacco use is concerned, but with good cause, since my wife's parents were both killed at a young age by the use of cigarettes. Tomorrow I will post a story telling you the role that the Amish play in the raising of tobacco.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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