Monday, June 9, 2014

Demon Tobacco in the Early 19th Century

Monday, June 9, 2014
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Loretta reports:

Someone on a social media site recently wrote that it was an error to have men smoking in gentlemen’s clubs stories set in the early 1800s.  Not having come across images of men smoking in the clubs at this time, I'm fine with that.  But additional points were made about cheroots being unknown and about smoking not becoming popular until the late 1800s.  That was odd because...

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Well, look at the caricatures.  Pierce Egan’s Life in London and its successors have often offered me inspiration, and more than one plate shows Corinthian Tom smoking a cigar.  And so some of my ill-behaved heroes (and a heroine) smoked cheroots  in my books set in the late 1820s.

Since I have no idea where my original research from Lord of Scoundrels and The Last Hellion got itself buried, I went cigar hunting at Google Books.

From The New Monthly Magazine (1826)
“Smoking has had its vicissitudes...grew thin and died away under George the Third; and has lately reappeared, with a flourish of Turkish pipes, and through the milder medium of the cigar, under the auspices of his successor.*—p. 50

From Every Night Book: Or, Life After Dark (1827)
“In choosing your cigars, attend to these precepts.”—p. 85

In An Apology for Smokers (1831) the narrator is traveling by coach.  A passenger opens his cigar case and offers him a cigar. p. 4

United Service Journal (1833)
“Cygnet was doing his best to reduce to vapour a Trichinopoly cheroot, and I was listlessly gazing on the rafters of the bungalow...” p. 55
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*King George IV (1820-30).

Upper left—Hawthorn Hall: Jerry at Home—Pierce Egan, The Finish to the Adventures of Tom, Jerry, and Logic ...(1828), courtesy Internet Archive.
Lower right—William Heath, Corinthian Steamers (1824) courtesy Wikipedia. Color version at British Museum here.


Jeffery Hopper said...

Literary reference for you, if memory serves, Tom Brown's school days set in 1830s. The pinks smoke cigars.

Lil said...

A possible explanation: Perhaps the idea of smoking not being popular until the late 1800s arose because it wasn't until them that you started to have a dedicated "smoking room" in the house?

Just a thought. I don't actually know if that is true.

GSGreatEscaper said...

For heaven's sake! Just what do they think was happening to all that tobacco that the Virginia planters such as Washington and Jefferson, the Lees, the Henrys, the Randolphs, etc. were shipping over to England/Europe?

Jo Ann Butler said...

This thesaurus has 'cheroot' being used by 1669 for smoking tobacco. 'Cigar' came into use ca. 1735.

LorettaChase said...

Jeffery, thank you! Your comment led me to my yellowed copy of Tom Brown's Schooldays. I realized that was where I discovered the Trichinopoly cheroot my character smokes. Lil, it's definitely possible that the writer didn't quite mean what it sounded like. Smoking became more socially acceptable later, though many "Corinthians" didn't care what was acceptable. GSGreat Escaper & Jo Ann--you understand why I was puzzled.

G. Thomas Fitzpatrick said...

I think Americans were ahead of the Europeans with regard to tobacco. Not surprising since it is native to the Americas.

Pipe smoking was well established throughout the colonies from the late 1600s on. A popular 18th century American folksong was "Tobacco Is But An Indian Weed".

Cigars were common in the Spanish colonies. It was the British-Provincial siege of Havana towards the end of the Seven Years' War that brought the soon-to-be-divided Anglosphere into contact with cigars.

One Provincial officer taking part in the siege was Israel Putnam of Connecticut. A farmer first, Ranger second, he saw the opportunity tobacco in the form of cigars offered, and brought back a substantial number of seeds with him to the Connecticut River Valley.

In only a few years, while the South continued to supply most of the pipe tobacco, Putnam and other ambitious farmers were producing what we now know as Connecticut Shade tobacco, a mild flavorful wrapper tobacco for cigars.

John Adams, riding through the Connecticut River Valley on legal business around 1772 wrote home that he had discovered "paradise." Within a very short time, Adams became essentially a chain cigar smoker. Abigail wrote him, admonishing him while away from home, not to smoke too many "seegars".

So the timeline suggested by these facts puts the advent of the cigar's popularity in the Anglosphere around the time of the American War.

Britain's war effort in the Spanish Peninsula brought the next generation of British officers into daily contact with cigars (as they had been imported into Spain from her colonies, particularly Cuba, for decades already). So much so that one officer wrote to his younger brother who was about to take a commission in the army under Wellington that one of the must-have items for his haversack was a supply of cigars.

Of course, cigars at the time had nothing of the size or sophistication of good cigars today. They were much smaller, about the size of Backwoods cheroots. There is some evidence that they might have been crudely cured for flavor.

So cigar smoking seems to have been making an impact earlier than supposed, though perhaps mostly in certain groups, like army and naval officers, and in New England, where inveterate smokers could get tobacco grown 120 miles away more cheaply than Virginia tobacco.

Yarn Family said...

I was surprised at how often I see mention of cigar making as a profession in the federal census, though of course, the US federal census are a later period than your discussion. And, of course, I am sensitive to it because my great grandfather was a cigar maker....

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