The mechanization of cigarette manufacture

 Before the 20th century, tobacco was used predominantly for chewing, pipe smoking, inhaling (as
snuff), and cigar smoking. The cigarette was an innovation that appeared sometime early in the 19th century. The term “cigarette” first made its appearance
in English in the 1840s (Apperson 1916). For reasons
including cost and ease of use (discussed later in this
chapter), the product quickly caught on among tobacco
users. In the United States, cigarette smoking increased
enough during the Civil War for cigarettes to become
subject to federal tax in 1864 (Tennant 1950). But it
was not until its manufacture was mechanized that the
cigarette became a major tobacco product.
James Albert Bonsack patented a cigarette rolling machine in 1881 that, by the late 1880s, produced
cigarettes at 40 times the rate of a skilled hand worker
(Tennant 1950; Chandler 1977)

. The mechanization of
cigarette manufacture, like that of a number of other
products in the late 19th century (such as prepared
cereals, photographic film, matches, flour, and canned
food products such as soup), precipitated a marketing
revolution. Industries that developed “continuous
process” production (Chandler 1977, p. 249) could
increase unit production without increasing production costs—the main production problem of the day.
The cigarette industry, like these others, could now produce almost unlimited quantities of product at minimal cost per additional unit. When James Buchanan
Duke installed two Bonsack machines in 1884 and
arranged the next year an advantageous leasing arrangement with Bonsack, his cigarette output soared.
Within a decade, his unit cost of producing cigarettes
dropped to one-sixth of what it had been (Chandler
1977). In 1890, following a series of price wars made
feasible by these cost savings, Duke merged with
several competitors to form The American Tobacco
Company. With the production problem solved and
competition reduced, the focus of business thinking
shifted to marketing. At a time when national advertising of many products was in its infancy, The American Tobacco Company was innovative and expansive
in its promotional efforts (U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services [USDHHS] 1994).
Popularity and Protest
The growing popularity of cigarette smoking
coincided with the years of populist health reform in
the 19th century. Antitobaccoism was a standard feature of various writings on personal health, which held
that any “stimulant” was unhealthy (Nissenbaum
1980). Some of these health beliefs were tied to a religious orientation. Ellen Gould Harmon White, the
prophetess who founded the Seventh-day Adventists,
spoke out strongly against tobacco. In 1848, her first
vision concerning healthful living taught her the religious duty of abstaining from tobacco, tea, and coffee.
She attacked these products for the money squandered
on them and for their dangers to health. White may
have picked up these views from Captain Joseph Bates,
a Millerite (follower of William Miller, whose
millenarian group believed that the Second Coming
of Christ would occur in 1843). Not until 1855, however, did tobacco abstention become a larger theme
among the Adventists. In that year, the group’s
Review and Herald printed two lead articles attacking
“the filthy, health-destroying, God-dishonoring
practice of using tobacco” (quoted in Numbers 1976,
p. 40).
This protest was an integral part of the complex
antitobacco crusading at the time. In addition to the
religious motif, there was the considerable influence
of the hygiene movement, which branded “tobaccoism” a disease, tobacco a poison (Burnham 1989, p. 6),
and dubbed cigarettes “coffin nails” (Tate 1999, p. 24).
30 Chapter 2

Reducing Tobacco Use
Spearheaded by the American Anti-Tobacco Society,
which was founded in 1849, antitobacco critics found
tobacco a cause of ailments ranging from insanity to
cancer. During this time, cigarettes were often considered narcotics because they seemed to have addicting qualities (Tate 1999). This litany of physiological
ills ascribed to tobacco use did not prove to have the
social power of the announcement, a century later, that
numerous medical studies had found a direct link between smoking and specific diseases that, as was understood only in that later century, often took decades
to manifest themselves. Between 1857 and 1872, George
Trask published the Anti-Tobacco Journal in Fitchburg,

 Massachusetts, attacking the filth (especially of chewing tobacco), the dangers to health, and the costliness
of tobacco (Tennant 1971). Early 19th century popular
health movements tended to ally themselves with
“nature” and “natural” remedies in opposition to professional medicine; by the late 19th century, health
movements were more likely to take medical professionals as their spokesmen (Burnham 1987).
One such professional was Dr. John Harvey
Kellogg, Seventh-day Adventist and director of the
famous Adventist-founded Battle Creek (Michigan)
Sanitarium, whose main concern was improving diet.
Kellogg argued that tobacco was a principal cause of
heart disease and other illnesses and that it adversely
affected both judgment and morals (Schwarz 1970).
Along with Ellen Gould Harmon White and her husband, a Millerite preacher, Kellogg organized the
American Health and Temperance Association in 1878,
which opposed the use of alcohol, tea, coffee, and
tobacco. Later, Kellogg served as president of the
Michigan Anti-Cigarette Society and, after World War I,
as a member of the Committee of Fifty to Study the
Tobacco Problem.
Other organizational efforts directed specifically
at cigarettes began in the last two decades of the 19th
century. These efforts were generally directed at saving boys and young men from the dangers of cigarette
smoking. In New York City, the president of the board
of education, a smoker himself, set up the Consolidated
Anti-Cigarette League and won the pledges of 25,000
schoolboys not to smoke until they turned 21 (Troyer
and Markle 1983).
The first to call for cigarette prohibition was the
National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union
(WCTU) (Tate 1999). Led by Frances Willard, a friend
of Harvey Kellogg, who was further inspired by her
brother’s death from smoking-related illnesses, the
WCTU as early as 1875 made plans to instruct members of its youth affiliate, the Juvenile Work, about the
dangers of tobacco, as well as the hazards of alcohol.
In 1883, the WCTU established the Department for
Overthrow of Tobacco Habit, which was renamed the
Department of Narcotics in 1885 (Lander 1885; Tate
The campaign against tobacco became a permanent part of the WCTU. Reports from their annual
meetings documented the accomplishments of state
and local chapters in combating smoking. In 1884, the
superintendent of the Department for Overthrow of
Tobacco Habit acknowledged the difficulty of the task
before her: “With a spittoon in the pulpit and the visible trail of the vice in countless churches, with its
entrenchments bearing the seal of respectability, its fortifications so long impregnable will yield slowly and
unwillingly to the mightiest opposing forces” (WCTU
1884, p. v). She noted that tobacco was a habit costing
people “more than the support of all [their] ministers
of the gospel” or than the price of educating their children; that it caused disease, “especially the loss of sight,
paralysis, prostration, and scores of ailments hitherto
credited to other sources”; and that it “lower[ed] the
standard of morality” (WCTU 1884, p. v).
The WCTU was one group that pressed with
some success for legislation to prohibit the sale of
tobacco to minors.1 By 1890

, such laws had been passed
in 23 states. Connecticut and New York enacted penalties for both the underaged smoker and the merchant
who sold to the minor (WCTU 1890). In New York,
the strengthened law arose out of WCTU lobbying.
“We found so many evasions of the law as it stood,”
the WCTU reported at its annual meeting in 1890, “that
we decided our only way to save the boys was to
amend the law, so as to punish the boy who was found
using tobacco in any public place, street or resort”
(WCTU 1890, p. 185). The Department of Narcotics
organized a letter-writing campaign that mobilized
women, educators, and ministers (p. 185). By 1897,
the Department of Narcotics report could proudly
claim, “everything points to the death of the little coffin nail, if our women will only continue faithful”
(WCTU 1897, p. 343).
The laws prohibiting sales to minors began in New Jersey
and Washington as early as 1883, Nebraska in 1885, and
Maryland in 1886. By 1940, all states except Texas had
laws of this sort on the books (Gottsegen 1940). By 1964,
Texas had joined the list, but Louisiana and Wisconsin had
repealed their laws as unenforceable (USDHHS 1989).
The legality of the laws was confirmed by the United
States Supreme Court (Austin v. Tennessee, 179 U.S. 343, 21
S. Ct. 132 [1900]), and a Federal Court of Appeals ruled in
1937 to uphold the authority of local jurisdictions to ban
vending machine sales of cigarettes in the effort to protect
minors (USDHHS 1989).
Historical Review 31

Surgeon General's Report
Announcements of tobacco’s death were premature, but cigarette sales declined in the last years of
the 19th century. Most likely, the decline was precipitated by the “Plug War,” in which The American
Tobacco Company bought several plug tobacco producers and sharply cut prices, attracting cigarette users back to other tobacco products. Moreover, as the
country came out of the depression of the 1890s, cigar
smokers who had shifted to the cheaper cigarettes
moved back to their preferred smoke (Sobel 1978). But
the campaign against the cigarette certainly had a legislative impact. Cigarettes were prohibited for both
adults and minors by law—if only temporarily—in
North Dakota in 1895, Iowa in 1896, Tennessee in 1897,
and Oklahoma in 1901. Eleven states had some general anticigarette legislation by 1901, and almost all
state legislatures had considered curbs on cigarette
sales (Outlook 1901).
In 1899, Lucy Page Gaston, a WCTU activist, set
up the Chicago Anti-Cigarette League (changed to the
National Anti-Cigarette League in 1901 and to the AntiCigarette League of America in 1911). The league
focused on the dangers of cigarettes to boys. Gaston
sponsored frequent rallies, at which a chorus of young
nonsmoking men provided the music (Duis 1983; Tate
1999). One of the innovations of Gaston’s crusade was
the establishment of a smoking cessation clinic in Chicago (Troyer and Markle 1983).

 Gaston, whose long
career against tobacco would culminate with her bid
for the Republican presidential nomination in 1920 on
an antitobacco platform (New York Times 1920), worked
tirelessly lobbying for antitobacco legislation.
Such legislation continued to pass, particularly
in midwestern and some western states—Indiana,
Nebraska, and Wisconsin in 1905; Arkansas in 1907;
and Kansas, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Washington in 1909. But evasion of the laws was apparently
easy. Cigarette “makings” (e.g., cigarette papers and
cigarette tobacco) were sold even if cigarettes were not,
and some retailers sold matches for a higher-thanusual price and gave away cigarettes with them
(Warfield 1930; Sobel 1978). Other retailers and smokers evaded the law through a product wrapped in a
tobacco leaf rather than paper (New York Times 1905).
The WCTU was not alone in its efforts. Several
businesses and prominent individuals were outspoken in the crusade against tobacco use, some going so
far as to support Gaston’s proposed (and defeated)
20th amendment to the Constitution that would have
outlawed the manufacture and shipment of tobacco
products (Junod 1997). Henry Ford attacked the habit
of cigarette smoking and enlisted Thomas Edison to
investigate its dangers (Brandt 1990). According to
Harper’s Weekly (1910), many railroads and other firms
would not hire smokers. Sears, Roebuck and Company and Montgomery Ward Holding Corporation
refused to employ smokers (Porter 1947–48). The NonSmokers’ Protective League of America was established in 1911 with a distinguished board of directors,
including Harvey W. Wiley, chief chemist of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture and father of the (1906)
Pure Food and Drug Act; James Roscoe Day, chancellor of Syracuse University; and David Starr Jordan,
president of Stanford University (New York Times
1911). Dr. Charles G. Pease, a physician and dentist,
was the leader of this group. “Almost single-handed,”
according to a New York Times report (1928, p. 7), Pease
won a 1909 prohibition against smoking in the subways. In 1917, he opposed sending tobacco to American soldiers in Europe.
But the New York Times reported in 1928 that “little
has been heard from Dr. Pease since” (p. 7). Indeed,
the anticigarette movement by then was waning.
Cigarette prohibition was repealed in Indiana in
1909; Washington in 1911; Minnesota in 1913; Oklahoma and Wisconsin in 1915; South Dakota in 1917;
Nebraska in 1919; Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, and Tennessee in 1921; Utah in 1923; North Dakota in 1925; and
Kansas in 1927 (Gottsegen 1940). Legislatures in other
states—including Lucy Page Gaston’s home state of
Illinois—considered but did not enact anticigarette bills
(Duis 1983). Even the WCTU, at the time judged “the
most powerful and the most formidable organization
which is actively opposing the use of tobacco” (Brown
1920, p. 447), in 1919 voted against supporting tobacco
prohibition. The organization pledged to keep to an
educational rather than a legislative campaign (New
York Times 1919).
A major weapon against the tobacco prohibition
movement was the American soldier. Cigarettes had
been popular among the armed forces since the Civil
War. By 1918, during World War I, cigarettes were part
of the army’s daily ration (Dillow 1981); soldiers used
cigarettes for relief during the extremes of tedium and
tension characteristic of the profession. General John
Joseph Pershing himself is supposed to have said, “You
ask me what we need to win this war. I answer
tobacco, as much as bullets” (quoted in Sobel 1978,
p. 84). “The soldiers, we are told, must have their
tobacco,” a newspaper editorialized in 1915: “The cigarette is the handiest form in which this can be sent”
(Lynn [Mass.] Evening News 1915, p. 4). Even the Young
Men’s Christian Association altered its antitobacco
stance and, along with the International Red Cross and
other charitable and patriotic organizations, sent cigarettes off to the soldiers in the field (Schudson 1984). 

32 Chapter 2

5000 General’s report
Broadcast ad ban
Number of cigarettes
4000 into WWII
begins 3000
tax doubles
2000 smoking and cancer price drop
into WWI broadcast media
rule 1000
Great Depression
1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990
U.S. Department of Agriculture 2000.
Reducing Tobacco Use
This outspoken, soldier-directed sentiment in favor
of the cigarette was thus a large-scale factor in the
reversal of anticigarette laws. A representative question that fueled the repeal effort in Kansas in 1927 was,
“If cigaret[te]s were good enough for us while we were
fighting in France, why aren’t they good enough for
us in our own homes?” (Literary Digest 1927, p. 12; see
also Smith 1973).
other civic organizations, sponsored 214 debates on
tobacco, and ran essay contests producing more than
50,000 essays against tobacco use (WCTU 1929). Religious denominations, including the Presbyterians,
Methodists, and Baptists, also took a stand against
tobacco (Troyer and Markle 1983). The antitobacco
position was especially strong among the Mormons
(Latter-day Saints). A motto of the Mormon youth organization in 1920, “We stand for the non-use and nonsale of tobacco” (quoted in Smith 1973, p. 360), seems
to have presaged the current low prevalence of tobacco
use in Utah.
Weakened but not vanquished by these legislative setbacks, the war on tobacco persevered. In 1921,
the Loyal Temperance Legion reported holding anticigarette essay contests, distributing antitobacco blotters in schools, and stubbing out 125,000 cigars and
cigarettes (WCTU 1921). The Department of Narcotics held up its own end; in 1929, for instance, it held
poster contests, cooperated in antitobacco work with
Such dedicated opponents did not prevent the
popularity of the cigarette—an inexpensive, easy-touse form of tobacco product—from increasing in the

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