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  • Tobacco’s Civil War:Images of the Sectional Conflict on Tobacco Package Labels
  • Paul D. H. Quigley (bio)

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Figure 1.

Defeat is not Dishonor, ca. 1865.

Tobacco doesn't sell itself. Its purveyors have long been pioneers in advertising and marketing techniques. Leaf through the pages of this special issue and you'll find plenty of evidence of that: the provocatively posed photographs of women smoking; the celebrity ball players on cigarette cards; the profits that "Buck" Duke ploughed into marketing; the women parading around the rural South wearing dresses and bikinis made entirely out of tobacco leaves. Ever since the earliest Anglo-Virginians made quick fortunes sending their exotic crop back across the Atlantic, the tobacco industry has used—or invented—just about every promotional trick in the book.

It should surprise no one, then, that tobacco vendors cashed in on the Civil War. Decades before they used sex to sell cigarettes, they were using sectionalism to sell cigars. And fortunately, the Library of Congress has preserved a fascinating collection of tobacco package labels from the Civil War era, a selection of which we reproduce here. All images are courtesy of the Collections of the Library of Congress; these and other examples can be viewed online at www.loc.gov. [End Page 53]


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Figure 2.

Southerner Rights Segars, Salomon Brothers, 1859.


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Figure 3.

John C. Calhoun, ca. 1860.


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Figure 4.

Oh Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny, Robertson, Seibert, & Shearman, ca. 1859.

Slavery and Southern Rights

Even tobacco firms outside the South invoked images of southern rights and romanticized portrayals of slavery, presumably in an effort to market their products to southern partisans. Sometimes, as the respectable-looking African American couple in the first label suggests, they didn't get it quite right. [End Page 54]


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Figure 5.

X-X Brand, C. A. Butler.


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Figure 6.

The Conscript, ca. 1863.


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Figure 7.

Our Country's Pride, ca. 1862.

And the War Came

The war made its way onto tobacco package labels in a variety of guises, from sturdy cannons to not-so-sturdy conscripts. The labels, in a similar way to popular songs and poems, became a place to glorify, make sense of, or even poke a little fun at the realities of war. [End Page 55]


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Figure 8.

Union, ca. 1864.


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Figure 9.

The Union Must be Preserved, ca. 1860.


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Figure 10.

The Twin Sisters, C. S. Allen & Company, 1863.


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Figure 11.

A. Lincoln, ca. 1860.

Representing the Union

For most white northerners, the Civil War, at least at first, was more about preserving the Union than opposing slavery. The iconography of eagles, shields, and, of course, the stars and stripes, gave form to the sometimes abstract concepts for which they fought. [End Page 56]


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Figure 12.

The National Tobacco, ca. 1868.


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Figure 13.

Grant's Tobacco, ca. 1874.


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Figure 14.

Reconstruction, ca. 1868.

Reconstruction and Remembrance

The war was over, but it was anything but forgotten. Patriotic images visually expressed the reunification of North and South within a common country. Both sides, however, were determined to remember their wartime heroes in such labels as "Grant's Tobacco," shown here, and "Defeat is not Dishonor," the tribute to Robert E. Lee depicted on the first page.

Paul D. H. Quigley

Paul D. H. Quigley is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is writing a dissertation on the intellectual and cultural sources of Confederate nationalism. He is also associate editor of Southern Cultures.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 53-57
Launched on MUSE
2006-05-10
Open Access
No
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