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^28 hjiapter in America's Industrial Growth 



i. 1. Itll Sitbrara 



Nnrtli (Earaltna ^taU Unitierflitg | 

no. 16 


ne importance to the 
3ssee. Second only to 
percent of the total 
'.rs. In 1971 an esti- 
nilies produced 105.6 
60 acres and sold the 
ng 75.7 cents a pound, 
etail market for con- 
rettes, the majority of 
million in retail sales 

intributed heavily to 
ies. More than half 
\arettes goes into the 
rage retail price of a 
te is 41.6 cents. Ten- 
lost 420 million packs 
ke more than $2.2 bil- 

hnal Revenue Service 



From the colonial peridd through the "Black Patch 
Wars' to todatj, tobacco has played a prime role in 
sJuiping tJic cconomif of Tennessee. This booklet traces 
that histonj and describes the importance of tobacco to 
Tennesseans today. 

Tobacco Histonj Series 

First EdUion 


1776 K St., NA\ ., Washington, D. C. 20006 

Tobacco production and marketing methods 
Tennessee and Kentucky. Tobacco history 
many in.stances is parallel. Kcuturhtj ana 
able for readers. 

similar in 
these states» in 

are verv 


S01 202386 

Tennessee and 

he hardy Tennessee frontier was long 
explored and settled by the time the territory was ad- 
mitted to the Union in 1796. Indians were thought to 
be the first inhabitants of the Tennessee region-the 
Chickasaw, Cherokee and Shawnee were among the 
tribes living there when the first Europeans, the Spanish, 
explored the area in search of gold around 1540. 

There was later a long period of French-British 
contention over the land area which Tennessee now 
occupies. By 1763, the British were in control and, 
eventually, North Carolina annexed the area into its 

own administration. After the Revolution, in 1790, 
Congress organized the area into "The Territory of the 
United States South of the River Ohio," or, as it was 
commonly called, Southwest Territory before it was 
annexed as the state of Tennessee. 

During this colonial period, waves of ambitious mi- 
grants crossed the Appalachian Mountains from the 
East and moved into Tennessee through the Cumber- 
land Gap and the Tennessee Valley. With them, the 
settlers brought their various trades and agricultural 

Throughout its history and growth, tobacco has 
played an important part in the development of the 
state. Its seeds arrived with the first settlers. Its culti- 
vation spread rapidly throughout the area and has since 
become the livelihood for thousands of Tennessee farm 
families. Tobacco culture has created jobs in manu- 
facturing, processing and myriad other industries re- 
lated to the tobacco industry. Tobacco sales over retail 
counters have added millions of dollars in excise taxes 
to both state and federal treasuries. 

The importance of tobacco to Tennessee is enormous. 
Its history and development have had a definite eco- 
nomic and political impact upon the state. The follow- 
ing pages offer a contemporary and historical montage 
of tobacco's importance to the state; outlining how and 
why the impact of tobacco there has been so important. 


Where Tobacco is grown in Tennessee 


Burley (Type 31) 


Dark Air-Cured (Type 35) 

L— ^^ 


Eastern Dark-Fired (Type 22) 


Western Dark-Fired (Type 23) 



urley is king 

The development of tobacco in Tennessee closely 
parallels that of Kentucky. Both states share the growth 
of the four main types of tobacco cultivated in that part 
of the country. But of these types, Burley, though rela- 
tively new to the industry, is the most widely cultivated 
in Kentucky and Tennessee. 

Burley was originally a dark air-cured type known as 
"Red Burley." Today, it is referred to as "White Burley." 
The latter type made its first appearance in 1864 near 
the village of Higginsport in Brown County, Ohio. In 
the spring of that year, a farmer procured from a neigh- 
boring, Bracken County farmer a small portion of to- 
bacco seed known as "Little Burley." He sowed part 
of the seed and when it was ready for transplanting he 
noticed some white and yellow colored plants. The 
farmer took these to be diseased or dwarfed and got 
rid of them. 

The following year, being short of seed, the farmer 
sowed the same "Little Burley" seed and found a portion 
of "mutant" plants. In 1866, two hogsheads of this type 
tobacco were shipped to Cincinnati and sold at a pre- 
mium price, $58 for a hundred pounds. Burley, as we 
know it, gained in popularity and spread throughout 
Kentucky and down to Tennessee. Its position has 
never slackened. 

bundant fields 

Prior to 1924 Burley production was largely confined 
to East Tennessee and the total acreage for the state 

Plant beds must be carefully maintained during 
initial stages of Burleij growth 

Courtesy, the Tobacco Experiment Station, Greeneville, Te: 

that year was 31,500 acres. Burley farmers in 1924 
harvested just over 27 milHon pounds. 

Production of Burley has increased considerably since 
that time as it is grown today in most of Tennessee's 
95 counties. In 1971 Tennessee Burley farmers har- 
vested 82,593,000 pounds on 39,900 acres, averaging 
2,070 pounds per acre. The crop was sold through some 
20 markets at a total crop value of $66,240,000, averag- 
ing approximately 80.2 cents per pound. 

Smokers have found that the taste of cigarettes im- 
proves considerably with the addition of Burley tobacco. 
On an average, 35 percent of the tobacco in cigarettes 
is Burley. The leaf is also used in domestic pipe and 
chewing tobaccos; a little goes into some varieties of 


ther types 

In addition to Burley, or type 31 as it is classified 
by the United States Department of Agriculture, there 
are three other tvpes of tobacco grown on Tennessee 
farms. The collective area in which they are grown, 
including sections of south-central and south-western 
Kentucky, was long known as the Black Patch. 

• Eastern Dark Fired, type 22, unlike Burley is 
fire-cured. It is grown in Montgomery, Robertson 
and adjoining counties and in neighboring Ken- 
tucky counties. The location of the Eastern district 
is also known as the Hopkinsville-Clarksyille Belt. 
In 1971, Tennessee farmers in the ten counties 
where type 22 is grown harvested 19,453,000 pounds 
of this type on 9,800 acres with an average yield of 
1,985 pounds per acre. They sold their tobacco for 
$11,905,000 at an average 61.2 cents per pound. 
Type 22 is mainly used in the production of snufi^. 

• Western Dark Fired, type 23, also a fire-cured 
Type, is grown west of the Tennessee River in 
Tennessee and Kentucky. This tobacco is grown 
and cured like Eastern Dark Fired but it is some- 
what different because it is grown on different 
kinds of soil. In 1971 three Tennessee counties 
grew and harvested 983,000 pounds of this type 
on 660 acres averaging 1,490 pounds per acre. They 
sold the crop for $571,000 at an average price of 
58.1 cents per pound. Like type 22, type 23 is also 
mainly used for snuff manufacture. 

• Dark Air Cured, type 35 or One Sucker, is an 
air cured tobacco grown mostly in Robertson, Sum- 
ner and Macon counties. There is some type 35 
production in surrounding counties. The plant is 

called One Sucker because removal of the suckers 
which sprout from the axil is necessary only once 
during the season. Tennessee farmers harvested 
2,576,000 pounds of this type on 1,400 acres in 1971 
at an average 1,840 pounds per acre. They sold 
their crop for $1,267,000 at an average of 49.2 cents 
per pound. The principal use of One Sucker has 
been in the manufacture of chewing tobacco and 
for the export trade. Selected grades are subjected 
to special processing methods which are treated 
as trade secrets under such names as "Black Fat," 
"Water Baler" and "Dark African." This tobacco 
is used largely for export and is consumed by pipe 

long days and hard work 

In all, Tennessee tobacco farmers make a hefty con- 
tribution to the national tobacco economy. Tliere are 
an estimated 97,000 farm families involved in raising 
tobacco in the state. All types of tobacco, representing 
almost 10 percent of all crops grown in the state, are 
cultivated on 51,760 Tennessee acres on 96,800 farms. 
In 1971, the total tobacco poundage produced came to 
more than 105.6 million pounds averaging about 2,040 
pounds per acre. The entire crop was sold for about 
$80 million averaging about 75.7 cents per pound. This 
ranks Tennessee sixth in total crop value for 1971 of 
the 16 major tobacco producing states. 

Tobacco farming is no easy business. During the 
ten-month growing season, the farmer puts in an aver- 
age 339 hours of labor per acre to produce a Burley 
crop in Tennessee. 

The art of hand labor is retained in most phases 
of cultivating, harvesting and curing. Equipment for 
accelerating the chore of transplanting has largely elimi- 
nated that general occupational backache, but the hu- 
man element is still a controlling factor in the operation. 


he start of the season 

"Making" a tobacco crop involves more hand labor 
than any other major agricultural activity. Fertilized 
soil, well drained and high in organic matter is most 

Initially, tobacco seeds are planted in a treated seed 
bed during March. The seed bed is normally about 
75 to 100 feet long and about nine feet wide. This size 
bed provides sufficient plants to set a full acre of 
tobacco. Immediately after seeding, the bed is covered 
with a cloth to protect the seedlings from cold winds, 
insects and to keep the soil surface from drving out. 
After the temperature remains at a minimum of at least 
50 degrees, the seeds begin to germinate. 


rom bed to field 

The seedlings are usually transplanted when weather 
conditions are most favorable, generally between May 10 
and June 1. After they have been transplanted and 
when the plants reach the bloom stage, the flowers are 
removed. "Suckers," small shoot-like growths, used to 
be removed by hand. Today, most farmers can elimi- 
nate this tedious chore by applying a special chemical 
that inhibits the growth of suckers so that full-bodied, 




Burletj seedlings being transplanted into the field 

Courtesy, the Tobacco Experiment Station, Greeneville, Tenn 

highly aromatic Burley can be produced. This will 
result in uniform ripening of the plant. 

Some farmers prime the leaves when they begin to 
mature; that is, they pull off the first lemon-yellowed 
leaves before cutting off the entire plant. Generally 
though, common practice is to cut off the whole plant 
at the lower part of the stalk. The plants are then 
speared onto sticks and taken to curing barns where a 
four to six week "airing out" will literally starve the 
plant and cause the leaf to turn tan to reddish brown 
in color. 

There has been some experimentation with bulk cur- 
ing. By this method some thousand pounds of leaves, 
stripped from stalks, are placed in a specially designed 



unit. Heat, conducted by flues, is provided by an oil 
furnace. Curing by this process can be completed in 
a week or less. 


rom barn to buyer 

After the tobacco has been thoroughly cured and 
dried, it is removed from the barn and bulked. This 
involves stripping tlie leaves from the stalk and sorting 
them into tlie different leaf types according to their 
position on the plant. Leaves on the stalk, from the 
bottom of the stem up, are called flyings, lugs, leaf and 
tips. They are separated and tied into small bundles 
or "hands" for market. 


id and take 

Cured tobacco is a commodity that must be marketed 
promptly. It is a delicate article of commerce, liable to 
spoilage under unfavorable weather conditions. Usually 
the "hands" are trucked to auction warehouses. A small 
percent of dark tobacco is not sold at auction, but 
instead is marketed directly by the farmers at their' barn 
doors. The vast majority of Tennessee tobacco, though, 
is auctioned off at 20 markets in more than 100 ware- 
houses throughout the state beginning in late fall and 
continuing through the early part of winter. 


ennessee overseas 

A good deal of the tobacco grown in Tennessee i: 
exported to foreign buyers. It is shipped as unmanufac 


Tennessee Burley on the way to maturity. 

Courtesy, the Tobacco Experiment Station, Greeneville, Tenn. 

tured, leaf tobacco, and as a manufactured product in 
the form of cigars, cigarettes, smoking and chewing 

Since Kentucky and Tennessee are the major pro- 
ducers of Burley, most of type 31 shipped overseas 
comes from fields in those two states. In 1971 West 
Germany, Sweden, Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, The 
Netherlands, Japan and Thailand were the major 
buyers. These countries and a few others purchased 
36,535,000 pounds of Burley valued at $38,540,000 in 
1971. In addition, both Kentucky and Tennessee ex- 
ported 19,622,000 pounds of fire-cured tobaccos valued 
at $13,402,000 and more than a half million pounds of 
One Sucker at $312,000. 



aniifacturing is big business 

In 1971, Americans consumed more than 555 billion 
cigarettes, about 7.8 billion cigars, 70 million pounds 
of smoking tobacco, over 71.8 million pounds of chew- 
inging tobacco and almost 27 million pounds of snuff. 
The retail value of these products is estimated at more 
than $12.5 billion. Although the tobacco grown in 
Tennessee is not used extensively for manufacture there, 
it represents a major contribution to the manufacturing 
plants in Kentucky and other states. Machines in Louis- 
ville alone turn out about 107 billion cigarettes yearly 
and Tennessee Burley is among the various blends used 
in their manufacture. 

There are several major corporations in Tennessee 
involved in the manufacture of cigars, snuff, smoking 
and chewing tobacco. Also, there are 16 leaf merchants 
in the state. These concerns, with offices in Tennessee 
and throughout "tobaccoland," send buyers to the mar- 
kets to purchase leaf for their clients, many of whom 
are overseas and cannot afford to keep a full time 
office in the U.S. to represent them. Many of these 
leaf dealers also maintain large facilities to process 
the purchased leaf. It is cut, dried and prepared for 
the client and is then "prized" or packed into large, 
1,000-pound hogsheads and shipped to the client for 

The entire process, from farm to package, requires 
great skill, time, patience, money and labor. The great 
number of trades and services generated by the social 
uses of tobacco have long added to the economic 
importance of the tobacco industry. 


Xhe consumer market 

Tennesseans are no different in tlieir tobacco-buying 
pattern from otlier Americans— the largest consumers 
of cigarettes in the world. In 1971, through 32,413 
retail outlets, thev bought 417.9 million packages of 
cigarettes with an estimated wholesale value of $91 
million and a retail value of almost $175 million. 

Tennessee consumers also purchased cigars, smoking 
and chewing tobaccos, snuff, pipes and other smokers' 
articles, and while total retail expenditures for these 
items are not known, their wholesale value came to 
about $106,915,250 in 1971. 

JLhe ever-bulging treasuries 

Ever since a federal tax was established on manu- 
factured tobacco, the various tobacco products have 
been hea\'ily taxed. The tax on finished commodities 
was first applied in 1862. Cigarettes were included in 
the tax in 1864. Since the inception of the tobacco 
excise the total yield to the United States Treasury 
through June 1971 has been over $61 billion. 

The current federal rate on each package of 20 
cigarettes is eight cents. It was "temporarily" raised 
from seven cents in 1952. Tennessee consumers made 
a substantial contribution to the over $2.2 billion col- 
lected on tobacco products by the Internal Revenue 
Service in 1971. 

The cigarette excise tax in Tennessee is an additional 
13 cents per pack. The original tax on cigarettes in 
Tennessee, four cents, became effective in 1925. It was 
dropped to three cents in 1937 and increased four times 


Ripe Burlcij tobacco just prior to harvesting 

over the years to its present 13-cent rate. In addition 
to the state excise, Tennessee imposes a 4/2 percent 
sales tax, including state-collected local taxes. This 
adds an additional two-cents-per-pack cost to the Ten- 
nessee cigarette smoker. Also, as of June 1, 1972, the 
state imposes a six percent tax at the wholesale level 
on all tobacco products. The total yield to the state 
from taxes on all tobacco products since the inception 
of the first tobacco tax in 1925 through June 1972 is 


The average retail price of a package of cigarettes 
in Tennessee is 41.6 cents. A full 21 cents, or 50.5 
percent of the retail price, is destined to terminate in 
federal and state treasuries; not including local taxes 
and the state sales tax. Funds from cigarette and other 
tobacco revenues benefit all— smokers or not— and their 
effect is visible through construction and maintenance 
of schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and in community 
services, just to name a few. 

Much more could be said about the composite to- 
bacco industry based in Tennessee. But the essential 
facts presented will serve to indicate the significance of 
tobacco in the state's economy. The history of that 
achievement is a dramatic one. 




olonial beginnings 

Indians similar to the Mound Builders are thought 
to have been the first inhabitants of the Tennessee 
region. The Chickasaw, Cherokee and Shawnee were 
among the tribes living there when the first Europeans, 
led by the Spanish explorer De Soto, arrived in 1540. 
De Soto was followed bv countryman Juan Pardo, but 
the Spaniards were seeking gold and did not settle. 

A long period of British-French contention over the 
Tennessee region was foreshadowed by the arrival of 
the French explorers Marquette and Joliet and English- 
men James Deedham and Gabriel Arthur in the same 
year, 1673. In 1682, Robert Cavalier de La Salle, while 
exploring the Mississippi River, stopped at the mouth 
of the Hatchie River and built the first European forti- 
fication on Tennessee soil— Fort Proudhomme. 

Spurred by reports from scouts such as Daniel Boone, 
a steady stream of settlers from Virginia and the Caro- 
linas soon began to enter the region. French influence 
waned and by 1763, following the termination of the 
Anglo-French wars with the Treaty of Paris, the British 
were in complete control. 

Settlers continued to flow westward despite a Royal 
proclamation in 1763 that forbade any colonial move- 
ment west of the Appalachian Mountains. The fertile 
lands of East Tennessee, the eastern river valleys of 
West Virginia and the lands of the Kentucky "Blue 
Grass" and middle Tennessee attracted many settlers 
and new establishments continually appeared through- 
out this region. 



irst attempt at government 

In 1772, the Tennessee settlers formed wliat they 
called the Watauga Association to govern the region. 
Meanwhile, Kentucky was experiencing a greater influx 
of settlers than was Tennessee. With good fortifications 
to the North, Kentucky proved an excellent protective 
barrier for Tennessee from hostile Indians. With condi- 
tions being more favorable than ever for continued 
settlement, Tennessee thrived and, in 1779, Nashville 
was established as a colony. During its first years of 
existence though, Indian troubles plagued the small 
colony— settlers were being slain at the rate of one 
every ten days. But as the population grew, the Indians 
were pushed west. 


rom revolution to statehood. 

Although the heart of the American Revolution was 
located on the Eastern seaboard, Tennessee made her 
contribution to America's independence. The settlers 
formed a committee of public safety and reorganized 
their government as the "Washington District." In 
1776 they were faced with Indian trouble and appealed 
to North Carolina for help. Following this assistance, 
North Carolina annexed the territory and it became 
Washington County— part of the "Tar Heel" state. 

During the Revolution, the first organized settlement 
in the Cumberland Valley occurred. Settlers cleared 
their new land and saved the best soils for tobacco. 
The virgin soils, rich in limestone and nitrogen com- 
pounds, proved excellent for tobacco growth. 


At the Revolution's end, the Eastern portion of Ten- 
nessee almost became another state to be called 
Franklin. But in 1784, North Carolina ceded her Ten- 
nessee county to the United States. Franklin remained 
in a state of political limbo for a short while; then in 
1796, Southwest Territory, as it was then called, became 
the 16th state to be admitted to the Union. Tennessee 
was the first state to be created out of national territory. 


he "Spanish Intrigue" 

Inspection warehouses for tobacco were in full oper- 
ation by 1780 in Tennessee. Most of the tobacco 
however, was used purely for domestic purposes. It 
was extremely difficult to export the Tennessee crop 
to major ports in the country. It could have been 
shipped to New Orleans via the Mississippi River, but 
the Spanish controlled New Orleans and did not allow 
the tobacco to enter that port. Roading the hogsheads 
of tobacco over the Appalachians was virtually im- 

Nevertheless, in 1787, an American general, James 
Wilkinson, loaded two flatboats in the vicinity of Frank- 
fort, Kentucky, with many consumer items on board 
including bacon, flour and a good quantity of tobacco 
valued at two dollars per hundred pounds. 

Wilkinson intended his shipment for New Orleans, 
but he was well aware that his two flatboats would be 
seized by the authorities when they reached the Nat- 
chez area. This happened, but the confiscated cargo 
was released, and Wilkinson was asked to meet with 
Don Esteban Miro, then governor of Louisiana. Good 
relations were established between these two men, and 


thus the "Spanish Intrigue," which has since puzzled 
historians, had its start. 

Many beheved that Wilkinson, a famous American 
general who had served with Benedict Arnold in the 
Quebec campaign, was involved in a plot to separate 
the western territories from the United States and place 
them under the protection of Spain. Whether or not 
this was true, when Wilkinson returned to Frankfort 
in February of 1788, New Orleans was opened to 
American trade. The Spanish authorities, already large 
buyers of Mississippi and Louisiana tobacco, now of- 
fered to buy the commodity from both Kentucky and 


he Mississippi opens to tobacco 

In December, 1788, a royal order issued in Seville 
permitted Americans to enter goods at Mississippi River 
ports on payment of the Spanish entry duty. Initially, 
Wilkinson was shocked at hearing of the Spanish order. 
He had planned to monopolize trade with the Spanish 
at New Orleans. He was now competing with the rest 
of the country. But though the river was open to those 
who dared risk its passage, Wilkinson had the advan- 
tage of precedence, the right political connections and 
a developing organization. 

All shipments were at the owners' risk— and the risks 
were there. Apart from the physical hazards of river 
traffic that caused boats to capsize, sink or run aground, 
there were river pirates and Indians to contend with. 
For awhile too, outlaws and white renegades infested 
the long route. They were dangerous, for a call for 
help, afloat or ashore, when sympathetically answered, 


c s 

s: cu 


too frequently resulted in the seizure of a boat and 
the massacre of her crew. 

Much of the tobacco used during this period was 
manufactured at home in the form of "twists" for 
chewing and cigars. Practically all country stores sold 
"sticks" of twists which were commonly used by the 
average working man. The elite used only James River 
tobacco and smoked Spanish cigars. 

By the turn of the 19th century, tobacco figured 
more profitably in proportion to total income to the 
farmers of the Cumberland vallev. One of the first 
warehouses in the area was built in Pulaski County, Ky., 
on the Cumberland River and was known as Stigall's 
Warehouse. Crude as these tobacco warehouses were, 
they still sold a good deal of tobacco down the Mis- 
sissippi. Stigall's reported, on the average, annual 
inspection of 217 hogsheads and nearby Montgomery 
Warehouse reported inspection of 294. Each hogshead 
weighed around 1,000 pounds, proving the inspection 
totals to be far from insignificant. 


verstocked warehouses 

Wilkinson's boast that he had opened the Mississippi 
was justified. Customs records at New Orleans for 
1790 showed that more than a quarter of a million 
pounds of tobacco had been registered in that port 
alone. An incalculable amount was smuggled in or 
went to sea without benefit of customs permits. 

Western tobacco shipments increased to the point 
where much more of it was flowing down the river than 


could be sold. In 1790 the Spanish authorities were 
forced to limit the amount of tobacco traded at New 
Orleans and set the maximum intake at 40,000 pounds 
annually. In late 1791, Wilkinson, "disgusted by dis- 
appointment and misfortunes, the effect of my igno- 
rance of commerce," abandoned his export trade and 
reentered the United States Army. 


merican expansion and more troubles 
with the British 

A prevalent form of settlement in the Tennessee 
frontier was the "station." It was a small group of log 
cabins arranged so they formed part of an enclosure 
supplemented by a stockade of posts for defense pur- 
poses. The number of cabins usually totaled around 
two or three dozen, but some "stations," like Nashville, 
could have well over a hundred inhabitants. Farming 
and hunting represented the livelihoods of these settlers 
who often entered a thriving fur trade with the local 

As these "stations" spread throughout Tennessee so 
did America's desire to increase her land area. In 
1802, Spain withdrew the right of deposit in New 
Orleans to Americans. But Napoleon, who had pur- 
chased the entire Louisiana territory from Spain, sold 
it to tlie United States in April of 1803 for $11,250,000. 
The Tennessee tobacco trade was stepped up again. 
An American merchant marine took shape and western 
tobacco began competing in markets all over the world. 
But international troubles were already brewing. 


President Jefferson, in an attempt to deplete French 
and British supphes of American tobacco, cotton and 
other commodities, declared an embargo on these 
products in 1807 and instead of being traded overseas, 
the tobacco rotted at the wharves, never to be sold. 
Meanwhile, American seamen were being impressed 
by the British navy and both Great Britain and France 
were ])lockading American ports. American neiitralitv 
was violated as tobacco and other commodities were 
seized at sea. The President, in 1808 and after much 
controversy, ended the embargo while his countrymen 
jeered that embargo spelled backwards read: "O grab 

The troubles with England led to the War of 1812. 
The Capitol in Washington was burned to the ground, 
but in the end the British were defeated. The "Long 
RiHes" of Kentucky and Tennessee played an important 
part in defeating the British, especially at the Battle of 
New Orleans in January of 1815. 

Tennesseans have had a long history of volunteering 
to assist and doing more than their share in American 
conflicts. It is for this reason that the state has long 
been referred to as the "Volunteer State." Even though 
this famous encounter took place two weeks after the 
signing of the peace treaty at Ghent, their victory, 
under the leadership of Andrew Jackson, saved the 
entire Mississippi Valley from invasion. 


tie "Era of Good Feeling" 

By 1815, with the seas cleared and open to American 
shipping, leaf exports snapped back to 90 million 


pounds annually from well below 60 million during the 
British embargo. 

In 1816, tobacco production around the Nashville- 
Clarksville areas was estimated at 10,000 hogsheads. 
With tobacco as a well established, staple crop, the 
business of shipping leaf down the Mississippi to New 
Orleans was becoming more lucrative with each passing 
day. The postwar era was truly that of good feeling. 
Commerce and trade flourished as it never had before. 

In 1830, the western tobacco fields of Kentucky and 
Tennessee were turning out one-third of the nation's 
crop. The Tennessee tobacco industry, for the first time, 
was making the transition from a supplier of tobacco 
for export and home use to a supplier of raw material 
for domestic manufacture. During that same year, one- 
fifth of the crop was not sent out of the country. It 
stayed in the United States instead for domestic manu- 
facture, an ever-growing industry. Twenty-one Ten- 
nessee counties were each producing more than a 
million pounds of tobacco and of these, eight produced 
almost two million pounds. Both Clarksville and 
Springfield were becoming popular as the largest dark- 
fired tobacco markets in the world, as more farmers 
were marketing their leaf on "home ground," and 
fewer were "prizing" it for shipment to New Orleans. 


n expanded, market 

In 1834, the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad 
was completed to Knoxville, supplying, for the first 
time, rail transport to the Atlantic ports and opening 
middle Tennessee to more trade. 


upon completion of new railroad systems and better 
river travel, including the steamboat, commerce from 
Tennessee flowed south down the Mississippi and as 
far east as New York. Tennessee corn, potatoes, whis- 
key, bacon, cider, apples, hemp, tobacco, beef, butter, 
cheese, beeswax, lard, feathers and cornmeal went 
to the markets of northern Alabama and the lower 
Mississippi. Although not luxurious, life for many 
Tennessee farmers was quite comfortable. 

The increased production of cotton and wheat in 
Tennessee inhibited the growth of tobacco for awhile. 
Shortly before the Civil War, Tennessee wheat com- 
manded a premium price on the New York market. But 
according to the Census of 1840, Tennessee ranked 



Memphis was a busy commercial port as pictured 

here circa 1851. Millions of pounds of tobacco flowed down 

the Mississippi River annually. 


third in tobacco production behind Virginia and Ken- 
tucky. In that year she produced 29,550,432 pounds. 
The total amount produced in the country that year 
came to more than 200 milhon pounds. 

The Mexican War of 1846 caused a temporary reduc- 
tion in the production of A-fifierican tobacco. At the 
dawn of the Civil War, Tennessee tobacco production 
was still limited to the northwestern and north central 
parts of the state. "White Burley" was relatively un- 
heard of until after the War. Tennessee farmers were 
still producing the dark tobacco which was especially 
in great demand on foreign markets. In 1859, Virginia 
still led the country in total tobacco production, but 
Kentucky followed a close second. Tennessee ranked 
third again, recording almost 43.5 million pounds. 


armers go to war 

In 1860, nine-tenths of all the tobacco grown in the 
United States came from slave states. Virginia, North 
Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee accounted for about 
four-fifths of tlie nation's total. The South was also 
a great tobacco manufacturing area. Just before the 
War, other than New York the principal manufacturing 
centers of tobacco were: Richmond, Petersburg, Lynch- 
burg and Danville, Virginia; Clarksville, Tennessee; 
Henderson, Kentucky; Fayette, and St. Louis, Missouri; 
and xMilton, North Carolina. 

When the War began. President Lincoln called on 
Tennessee to provide troops. A referendum proved 
Tennessee's sympathies to lie with the Confederate 
States of America— she seceded from the Union and 


The railroad bridge over the Ciimherland River, Nashville, 1862 

pledged allegiance to the South. East Tennessee, how- 
ever, provided large numbers of troops to the Union 

Next to Virginia, Tennessee was the leading battle- 
ground during the War. About 454 battles or skirmishes 
were fought in Tennessee— she also furnished the largest 
military contingent from the South— 145,000 men, 
30,000 of whom fought with the North. 

The War proved disastrous to the tobacco industry 
of the South. For all intents and purposes, it virtually 


ceased to function and it was not until the Reconstruc- 
tion period that tobacco production and manufacture 
began to rebound. 

The dark-fired areas prospered again and, with the 
development of Burley, tobacco production started to 
spread throughout the state. 


amafacturing makes the scene 

Tobacco factories in the state became almost as 
numerous as textile factories and grain mills. Licorice 
and sugar were imported in large amounts for use in 
special chewing tobaccos. Before the end of the 19th 
century, a variety of plugs with enticing brand names 
such as "U Jo's, Five-Cent Pocket Piece," "Peach and 
Honey," "Old Time," "The Old Tennessee Twist," "Half 
Bushel," "Select Brazil Smoking" and "All Southerners" 
represented one of the major, stable sources of income 
for almost any country store. 

Tobacco products did not escape the attention of 
the revenue collectors, even a hundred years ago. In 
1874, while writing a treatise on Tennessee's resources, 
state Commissioner of Agriculture Killebrew said: 

We have dwelt long on tobacco because it is 
the only great product of the state that is sub- 
ject to a burdensome tax, and every effort of 
our people should he made to reduce or 
lighten the load upon their industry. 
In 1875, the Tennessee tobacco crop came to 35 
million pounds. Commissioner Killebrew, in a letter 
to the governor on February 18, 1875, stressed the 



importance of continued support and expansion of 
Tennessee tobacco when he said: 

Tobacco, unlike cotton, does not interfere in 

any considerable degree with the cultivation 

of the grasses or bread grains, because the 

quality of tobacco planted is not limited, as 

cotton, by the number of acres which can be 

plowed, but by the ability to worm, sucker 

and house the crop. Consequently the saving 

in the amount of plowing, as compared with 

cotton, is so great that a tobacco planter may 

always make abundant supplies of corn, hay, 

wheat and other crops . . . The tobacco crop is, 

therefore, in a degree an extra crop, which, 

while it supplies the planter with ready 

money, does not interfere with his raising 

abundant supplies. 

By the 1880's domestic manufacturers, with some 

consistency, began to purchase more of the crop than 

did exporters. Manufacturing facihties moved from 

farm areas to urban areas. Chewing tobacco was 

extremely popular, and Tennessee tobacco was a major 

source of American plug. 

eginnings of Burley 

It was after the Civil War that Burley production 
seeped south from Ohio, through Kentucky and down 
to Tennessee— especially in the eastern portion of the 

In 1887, two farmers, Clisbie Austin and Silas Ber- 
nard, procured some of the new seed and brought it 



to the Greeneville area. They convinced many of the 
local farmers to plant Burley rather than attempting 
to compete with the flue-cured tobacco growers to the 
east. Up to 1916, Greene and Washington Counties 
were about the only ones producing Burley. After that 
its growth spread throughout most of the state. But 
before discussing Burley 's important impact upon the 
state, it is necessary to delve into the formation of a 
controversial group, hated by many, revered by many, 
that changed the entire face of the industry in the 
state. The "Night Riders" of Kentucky and Tennessee 
left a trail that is not likely to be forgotten. 

lack patch blues 

Dark tobacco in Tennessee has been grown, over the 
years, in an area commonly referred to as the Black 
Patch. It is located in the north central and northwest- 
ern part of Tennessee and in the south central and south- 
western part of Kentucky. The four basic tobacco 
districts in the Black Patch include: The Northern 
Dark-Fired or Stemming District, the Eastern Dark- 
Fired District, the Western Dark-Fired District and the 
Bowling Green Dark Air-Cured or One Sucker District. 

Pioneer tobacco farmers in the Black Patch, gener- 
ally, migrated from Virginia and North Carolina. Ini- 
tially, they grew tobacco for home consumption, but 
with the development of commercial river traffic and 
trade with Natchez and New Orleans, the Black Patch 
farmers became principal exporters of dark tobacco 
in the country. 

In 1900, Tennessee grew about 53.5 million pounds 
of dark tobacco. One historian described tobacco cul- 


tivation there and in Kentucky as "the Hfe of the Black 
Patch. The breath of agriculture and business, the 
money crop of the entire area." 

The latter part of the 19th century and the early 
1900's saw a downward trend in the prices of dark 
tobaccos. This was due, in part, to overproduction, a 
federal leaf tax, some poor leaf quality and a shift by 
consumers to tobacco products not utilizing dark types. 
But as time went on, a more important factor was 

From an 1883 lithograph of Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga 



ill Billies" and "Night Riders" 

As in other industries, manufacturing was becoming 
more centralized, and in the case of tobacco fewer 
buyers were purchasing increasingly larger shares of 
available leaf. As the number of competitive buyers 
diminished, so did prices offered to growers. By 
1901-02, typical Black Patch tobacco was selling for 
two cents per pound— less than it cost to grow. A group 
of Eastern District tobaccomen sought relief from Con- 
gress in 1904, without success. 

As a consequence, some 5,000 farmers met that fall 
in Guthrie, Kentucky, forming The Dark Tobacco Dis- 
trict Planter's Protective Association of Kentucky and 
Tennessee. They agreed that the organization would 
serve as their sales agent. Growers who chose not to 
join became known as "hill billies," connoting a resem- 
blance to a goat. 

At first, major buyers tried dealing with the "hill 
billies" but soon had to turn to Association sources for 
leaf supplies. In 1905, Felix Ewing, secretary-treasurer 
of the Association, was able to tell more than 18,000 
members and sympathizers in a rousing speech that: 
Now, we are ahead. The tobacco world ex- 
pects us to win, and that we must do so upon 
an honest, conservative basis shoidd be the one 
thought in the mind of every honest tobacco 

To some Association members, however, price re- 
covery was disappointingly slow, and late in 1905 a 
"Committee of 32" began taking action, sometimes 
violent, against growers who dealt outside the Associa- 
tion. A "Night Riders" organization began a series of 
forays during the next several years, burning barns 



and destroying crops, occasionally inflicting beatings 
in an effort to discourage independent growers over a 
12,000-square mile area of the Black Patch. 

Relief came by 1909, when the U.S. Supreme Court 
broke up the so-called tobacco buying "trust," and 
Congress repealed the leaf tax. By 1915, its usefulness 
gone, the Association was dissolved. 

urley boom 

Meanwhile, the expanding Burley crops brought im- 
proving prices, reaching 40 cents a pound by 1916. 
In 1921, the East Tennessee Tobacco Association and 
the state department of agriculture launched a cam- 
paign which led to Burley planting in more than 20 
counties. They produced a total crop of more than 18 
million pounds. A market was opened in Knoxville 
around 1923 and Burley planting spread throughout the 
middle part of the state. The tobacco economy was 
hurt, but only temporarily, by the post-World War I 
deflation— with overproduction came bad prices. 

Throughout the 1900's, tobacco production in Ten- 
nessee has steadily increased. Although the total acre- 
age liarvested has been a good deal more in the past 
than now, technology and science have afforded the 
tobacco farmer an opportunity to produce a lot more 
tobacco per acre than in the past. 

In 1920, for example, the average yield of tobacco 
per acre in Tennessee was 760 pounds. In the latest 
year of record, 1971, Tennessee tobacco farmers pro- 
duced an average of 2,040 pounds per acre. 

Tobacco production has come a long way in Ten- 
nessee since the pioneer days. Tobacco farming is big 


business and with the cooperation of state tobacco 
associations and both the state and federal governments, 
the science of tobacco farming and marketing has 
evolved more and more into a united effort to produce 
a more refined crop much more efficiently. 

Tennessee's fine tobaccos make a strong contribution 
to the U.S. tobacco industry. From tobacco for cigarette 
manufacture to tobacco for snuff, chewing and smoking, 
to that exported, helping our balance of trade, the 
industry in Tennessee has long been, and for a long time 
to come will be, a strong part of the commerce, agri- 
culture and industry that make up the "Volunteer 


Data on the current tobacco industry in Tennessee have been 
supplied by the Economic Research Service and Agriculture Marketing 
Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. Other data 
on the current industry are derived from publications of the Tennessee 
Crop Reporting Service and the Agriculture Extension Service of the 
University of Tennessee. 

Special notes of thanks are due to Mr. Beryl C. Nichols, research 
agronomist with the tobacco experiment station at Greeneville; Mr. 
Robert Hobson, Tennessee Crop Reporting Service, Nashville; Miss 
Lissa Brandon, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Nashville; Mrs. 
Dorothy Glasser and other staff members at the Tennessee State 
Library and Archives, Nashville; Mr. Luther H. Keller, University of 
Tennessee, Department of Agriculture Economics and Rural Sociology, 
Knoxville; and to Mr. Johnny D. Braden of U.S. Department of 
Agriculture's Economic Research Service, Washington, D. C. 

Material on the history of tobacco in Tennessee came from Tobacco: 
Its Culture in Tennessee by J. B. Killebrew, Commissioner of Agri- 
culture, Statistics and Mines (1876); The Country Store in Post Civil 
War Tennessee by Thomas D. Clark, East Tennessee Historical So- 
ciety, Volume 17, Knoxville (1945); History of Agriculture in the 
Southern United States To 1860 by LeviMs Cecil Gray, volumes I and 
II (1958); The Story of Tobacco in America by Joseph C. Robert 
(1952); Tobacco and Americans by Robert K. Heimann (1960); 
Introduction to the Resources of Tennessee by J. B. Killebrew, assisted 
by J. M. Safford, Ph.D., M.D., Nashville (1874); Tennessee, A 
History 1673-1932 by Philip M. Hammer, Ph.D., Vol. II, American 
Historical Society, Inc. ( 1933); The Pioneer Farmer and His Crops in 
the Cumberland Region by Harriet Simpson Amow, Tennessee His- 
torical Quarterly, Vol. XIX, No. 4 (1960); Tennessee Earth Factors 
in Settlement and Land Use by S. R. Whitaker, Tennessee Historical 
Quarterly, Vol. V, No. 3 (1946); The Tobacco Night Riders of 
Kentucky and Teimessee, 1905-1909 by James O. Nail, Louisville 

The Killebrew quotations on page 29 and 30 are from Tobacco: 
Its Culture in Tennessee; the Felix Ewing quote on page 33 is from 
The Tobacco Night Riders of Kentucky and Tennessee. 

Permission to quote directly from this booklet is granted. 

Additional copies will be made available without charge 

upon request to The Tobacco Institute 

1776 K St., N.W., Washington, D. C. 20006