"Decades before they used sex to sell cigarettes, they were using sectionalism to sell cigars."
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.