The history of tobacco throughout America and Europe is long and interesting. We know from ancient drawings that even the Mayan Indians used pipe tobacco, although it is not clear whether this was only done ceremoniously, or also recreationally. It is known that tobacco was used across the Americas before Columbus arrived there, mainly in ceremonies and for medicinal purposes as well. However, there is no evidence to suggest that people smoked on a daily basis, nor did there seem to be any issues with nicotine or tobacco addiction.
From America to Europe
Legend has it that when Christopher Columbus went back to Europe, he brought some tobacco leaves and seeds with him for cultivation. However, it took at least another two centuries before it really caught on. In the middle of the 16th century, diplomats and other people of the elite started to promote smoking. Not long thereafter, it was available to the masses, starting with France (1556), the Spain (1559) and finally England (1565).
We also know that in Virginia, in 1612, the first commercial tobacco plantation was started. This was owned by John Rolfe, an Englishman. Within 10 years, it became the largest export product in the colony. Indeed, since then, it has been classed as one of the greatest “cash crops” of all times. By the start of the 19th century, smoking was incredibly popular. Some people chose pipes, others preferred cigars and cigarettes were also more common place. However, according to reports, people would only smoke about 40 cigarettes in a year.
Tobacco Smoking Becomes Popular
When tobacco was first cultivated, it was mainly for chewing and pipes. Cigars became popular in the early 1800s and cigarettes became commercially available in 1865. These were made on a North Carolina farm owned by the Washington Duke. He made hand rolled cigarettes that were sold to Civil War soldiers. In 1881, James Bonsack invented the rolling machine and the popularity of cigarettes went through the roof.
The Bonasck machine could make 120,000 cigarettes each day, yet it still struggled to meet demand. So, he joined together with the son of the Duke of Washington and they started mass-producing cigarettes. Their factory produced 10 million cigarettes in its first year and, within five years, it could make one billion cigarettes per year.
The Duke of Durham was the first cigarette brand, and the package also contained a baseball card. The product owners were behind the first tobacco company in the country, which was the American Tobacco Company. Until the start of the 20th century, this company was the largest and most powerful in the world. However, new cigarette brands like Philip Morris and Marlboro started to appear, which meant competition was strongly in place.
For a long time, cigarettes were marketed solely for men. However, women would also enjoy them. As a result, some cigarette makers started to make longer, thinner cigarettes, designed specifically for women.