The New International Encyclopædia/Tobacco

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TOBACCO (Sp. tobacco, tabaco, from the Carib name, of uncertain meaning; perhaps the name of the pipe smoked by the Indians, or of the tubes into which the leaves are rolled for smoking, or the Haitian name of the plant, or the old name of the island now called Tobago, near Trinidad, or the name of a province Tobaco, said to be in Yucatan), Nicotiana tabacum. A plant of the natural order Solanacæ. It has broad leaves, terminal panicles of flowers, and two-celled, five-valved fruits (many-seeded capsules). The numerous varieties differ more or less in the size and form of the leaves, and in the form and color of the flowers. Its generic name is in honor of Jean Nicot, who introduced it into France. Whether the use of tobacco as a narcotic was known in the East before the discovery of America is somewhat doubtful.Probably the habit has been long practiced in China, but it is not certain. If it was so, the custom did not extend among neighboring nations, whereas, on the introduction of the use of tobacco from America, where the Indians have smoked the leaves since remote antiquity, it rapidly extended throughout Europe, and soon became extensively prevalent among Oriental nations. The Indians used it in their important transactions. Thus the calumet (q.v.), or pipe of peace, is indispensable to the ratification of a treaty; and smoking together has even greater significance of friendship than eating together has among the nations. Tobacco seed was first taken to Europe by Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo, who introduced it into Spain, where it was first cultivated as an ornamental plant, till Nicolo Manardes extolled it as possessed of medicinal virtues. It was introduced into Italy in 1560. Its use as snuff soon followed its introduction for smoking. There is no reference to the use of tobacco in Shakespeare, yet it is certain from other evidences that it then was well known in England, although, on account of its high price, its use was confined to the wealthy. It was smoked in very small pipes and the smoke was expelled, not from the mouth, but through the nostrils. Tobacco was at first recommended for medicinal virtues, but soon became an article of luxury. The Popes Urban VIII. and Innocent XI. fulminated against it the thunders of the Church; the Sultans of Turkey declared smoking a crime. Sultan Amurath IV. decreeing its punishment by the most cruel kinds of death; and King James I. of England issued a Counterblaste to Tobacco, in which he described its use as “a custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black, stinking fumes thereof nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless.” Although the habit did not become prevalent in the East till the seventeenth century, the Turks and Persians are now the greatest smokers in the world. In India all classes and both sexes smoke; in China the practice is universal.

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TOBACCO (Nicotiana tabacum).

In America the culture of tobacco began in Virginia with the earliest settlement of the colony. It is recorded that in 1615 the gardens, fields, and even the streets of Jamestown were planted with tobacco, which immediately became, not only the staple crop, but the principal currency of the colony. In 1619 “ninety agreeable persons, young and incorrupt,” and in 1621 “sixty more maids, of virtuous education, young and handsome,” were sent out from London on a marriage speculation. The first lot of these ladies was bought by the colonists for 120 pounds of tobacco each; the second lot brought 150 pounds each. The culture of tobacco was introduced into the Dutch colony of New York in 1646, though it never gained the same prominence there as farther south. Maryland, the Carolinas, Georgia, and later Kentucky, made it the leading crop almost from their first settlement. It long constituted the most valuable export of the colonies. From 1744 to 1776 the exports of the crop averaged 40,000,000 pounds a year. None of the cotton States now produce much tobacco, but one county in Florida, Gadsden, has long been celebrated for the production of Cuban tobacco, which always brings a high price. As a commercial crop tobacco is confined to rather limited areas in a few States. In the production of wrapper leaf for cigars Florida and Connecticut take the lead. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin produce a great deal of filler leaf for cigars. Other classes of tobacco are grown extensively in Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri in the order named.

NIE 1905 Tobacco - production locations in the United States.jpg

The United States produces more tobacco than any other country in the world, and exports more than one-third of the product, chiefly to Germany, England, France, Italy, Austria, and Holland, in the order named. The value of the tobacco exported in 1850 was $6,417,251, in 1899 $25,467,218. The amount received by the United States Government from the internal revenue tax on tobacco products is a large one. In 1890 it amounted to $33,949,997. The value of tobacco imported in 1899 was $9,900,253, at an average price per pound of 70.2 cents.

The product of tobacco in Europe is nearly equal to the average production of the United States. Austria-Hungary produces about one-third of it, Russia one-tenth, Germany nearly as much, France about 35,000,000 pounds, and the other countries a small quantity. Europe can easily produce all the tobacco required, but American tobacco is largely imported, because it is cheap and is considered valuable for mixing with and fortifying European leaf.

In America tobacco is divided commercially into four classes: (1) cigar; (2) cigarette; (3) manufacturing (chewing, smoking, and snuff); (4) export.

Cultivation. The variety of tobacco planted depends upon soil, climate, and market demands. The different types of tobacco are grown upon a wide range of soils differing mainly in their physical characters. Wet soils composed largely of clay produce large heavy plants that cure to a dark brown or red. Light sandy soils produce plants having a light thin leaf curing to a bright red, mahogany, or fine yellow. The influence of soil, climate, and manures on the quality of the produce is almost beyond what is known in any other cultivated plant. In the more northern regions the seed is sown in a hot-bed and protected from frost by cheese cloth. The young plants are very tender and require frequent watering with weak liquid manure. They will be ready for transplanting in five or six weeks. For cigar tobacco the plants are grown rather close, 14 inches in Florida giving leaves of desirable size, quality, and appearance. For manufacturing tobacco the distance should be greater. Cultivation should be frequent and shallow and should cease when the plants begin to button. Where the production of seed is not desired the plants are topped to prevent flowering, that their whole strength may be directed to the leaves except in the case of that grown for cigar wrappers when a thin leaf is the more valued. Fertilizers affect the quality of tobacco more than the yield. Barnyard manure produces a rank growth but poor quality. Potash is the most important element to be supplied in growing tobacco, and the best forms are the carbonate and the sulphate. Nitrogen is best supplied in cottonseed meal, bone meal, and dried blood.

When the leaves begin to turn yellow the plants are ready to harvest. This is usually done by cutting down the stalk near the ground. In the better grades of cigar tobacco the leaves are primed off, beginning with the lower as they ripen, a process requiring more labor, but giving a more uniform and valuable product. The time generally chosen for cutting is in mid-day, or when the sun is powerful. The cutting is done by hand, and only such plants are chosen as are ready. If the plants are very large, the stalk is often split down, to facilitate the drying. They are then removed from the field to the tobacco-house, around which are erected light scaffolds, from which the plants are suspended without touching each other. After drying the leaves are removed from the stalks and tied up in bundles called hands. The losses in curing are about 85 per cent. of weight at cutting. After curing tobacco goes through the process of fermentation or ageing. This consists primarily of a reduction in the per cent. of nicotine and the development of aroma. The action is caused by unorganized ferments or enzymes inherent in the leaf and may extend through a period of a few weeks or of two years, depending upon the method of handling. In the slow fermentation the tobacco is packed in cases and stored in warehouses. In a quicker and better method, as practiced in Cuba and the cigar districts of the United States, the tobacco is piled under suitable conditions of moisture and the process of fermenting is hastened by the heat developed. The tobacco is repiled when the temperature rises to a certain point, and so continued until the proper flavor and aroma are developed. Tobacco for cigarettes is cured by heating it for a short time in large ovens. The product is of light color and a small nicotine content and without the agreeable aroma of cigar tobacco.

Tobacco, owing to the high rate of duty when in any manufactured form, is mostly imported in the leaf; but small quantities are brought in, chiefly for reëxport, in various states of manufacture.

Tobacco Diseases. Among the various diseases of tobacco perhaps the best known is calico or mottled top, a Connecticut name for the mosaic disease of Holland. The ‘spotting’ of tobacco in Connecticut, the spot disease of Russia, and the nielle of France are somewhat similar. The mosaic disease as described by Mayer, one of the first to investigate it in Holland, is characterized by mottled light and dark green leaves a few weeks after the plants are set. The tissue in the darker parts of the leaves grows faster and soon is much thicker than the light-colored areas. As the disease progresses some of the thin areas die out, giving a decidedly mottled appearance to the leaf. The diseased plants are usually irregularly distributed throughout the field. The cause has been the subject of much controversy. By many observers it is said to be of bacterial origin. Others claim it to be due to certain enzymes which disturb the balance between the normal functions of certain cells. Beijerinck claims to have produced the disease by inoculating healthy plants with the sterilized fluid from diseased leaves. Others claim it to be due to soil and water conditions. The evidence now at hand seems to favor the theory of the unorganized ferments as the probable cause. The spot disease is characterized by white or brown spots of various size and shape upon the leaves. In some cases the leaves resemble the spotted condition which is considered so desirable in some tobaccos, as the Sumatra wrapper leaf. The cause of the spot is not definitely known. In Australia the fungus Peronospora hyoscyami produces a common and destructive disease of the plants, and in Java and Sumatra the dark spots are attributed to Phytophthora nicotianæ. Both these diseases may be prevented by thorough application of Bordeaux mixture. In the curing of tobacco two diseases, pole burn and stem rot, are common. Pole burn is likely to develop if long continued damp, sultry weather occurs while the plants are being cured. It first attacks the veins, turning them black, but spreads to the rest of the leaf, blackening it and making it very bitter. Certain fungi seem always present in this disease, as well as many bacteria. It is believed the fungi are the principal cause of the injury, in which the bacteria doubtless assist. This disease may be prevented by artificial heat and ventilation. The stem rot is due to the fungus Botrytis longibrachiata. It attacks the stems and veins, producing patches of velvety white fungus and causing more or less decay. The spores ripen upon the stalks that are thrown aside as worthless. These should he carefully collected and burned, and the tobacco barn thoroughly fumigated with sulphur fumes before and after curing a crop.

Cigars and Cheroots are forms of manufactured tobacco. Cuba supplies the best cigar tobacco, the best cigars being made from that grown in Vuelta Abajo and hence known as Vuelta tobacco. The greater proportion of genuine Havana cigars smoked in this country are not manufactured in Cuba, but in Florida by Cuban workmen from genuine imported tobacco, under the system used in Cuba and known to the trade as ‘Cuban hand-work.’ This term characterizes a very careful method, by which each piece of leaf is so graded that the entire cigar is of the same color throughout, with each vein of the leaf running in the same direction, in order to insure even and perfect burning.

Next to Cuban ranks the tobacco grown in Florida, while the product of Borneo, Ceylon, and the Philippine Islands is considered little inferior. Persia also produces a good article. Turkish tobacco is very aromatic. The name Turkish is loosely applied to the leaf grown in Syria, Rumelia, Karamania, and about the Persian Gulf. A light yellow tobacco is smoked in China, and some of it is exported. Very excellent tobacco is grown in Java and Sumatra and shipped to Amsterdam, where the best cigars in Europe are most readily obtained. Burmese tobacco is fair. In Germany inferior tobacco is produced along the Rhine, near Baden and at Mainz, and is used for home consumption. In France tobacco is a Government monopoly and can be grown only by those who receive a special license. These producers have the choice of selling their tobacco to the Government manufacturers or of exporting it. The best cigars made in Europe of European tobacco are those manufactured in Spain.

Cigarettes. Of late years cigarette smoking has increased greatly, but in the United States the increased manufacture of little cigars has caused an apparent decrease in the number of cigarettes made. Under the classification in the revenue returns, it is difficult to secure satisfactory statistics. The manufacture is now practically in the hands of a single ‘trust.’ In France there are several factories exclusively devoted to the production of cigarettes, employing over 2000 women and turning out more than 400,000,000 cigarettes a year. In Spain the consumption of cigarettes is very great, but the practice is for the smoker to roll his own, rather than to smoke the manufactured article.

Snuff was originally made in Spain, and later in England, Scotland. Holland, and Belgium. It was at first made by grinding the leaf tobacco in mortars, and scenting the powder in various ways. It is now ground in metal mills by steam power. The United States produces a small amount of snuff, but the practice of taking snuff is annually declining. In the reports of the manufactures of tobacco, snuff is classed with chewing tobacco. Chewing tobacco is put up in pressed cakes called ‘plug tobacco,’ and in a spongy mass of fine threads known as ‘fine cut.’ Usually flavoring matters, as vanilla, sugar, syrups, glycerin, etc., are added in small amounts. Different manufacturers have various formulas, considered as trade secrets, for improving their products. Smoking tobacco for pipes is put up in twists or rolls of the natural leaf or is cut fine and put up in small packages. Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata) has nothing in common with this subject. See Lobelia.

Tobacco has been used as a sedative or narcotic over a larger area and among a greater number of people than any similar substance, opium ranking next, and hemp third. Tobacco leaves, when submitted to chemical analysis, yield nicotine (q.v.), which is its most characteristic constituent, albumen, a gluten-like substance, gum, resin, malic and citric acids, and a large amount of inorganic constituents, 100 parts of the dry leaf yielding from about 19 to 27 per cent. of ash, in which potash, lime, and silica preponderate. Nicotine, the alkaloid contained in tobacco and considered a violent poison, does not appear in tobacco smoke. It is split into pyridine and collodine. Of these the latter is said to be the less active and to preponderate in cigar smoke, while the smoke from pipes contains a larger amount of pyridine. If tobacco possesses, like alcohol, opium, tea, coffee, etc., the power of arresting oxidation of the living tissues, and thus checking their disintegration, it follows that the habit of smoking must be most deleterious to the young, causing in them impairment of growth, premature manhood, and physical degradation. Before the full maturity of the system is attained, even the smallest amount of smoking is hurtful; subsequently, the habit is generally prejudicial. Smoked just after a meal a cigar is said to act as a digestive stimulant, and as a food when other forms of nourishment are not procurable. In some persons smoking increases, in others diminishes mental activity. Chewing is considered the most deleterious form in which to use tobacco. The different kinds of tobacco exert a different influence on the smoker according to the amount of noxious ingredients which they contain. Those which yield a small proportion are termed mild tobaccos.

Tobacco has been used in medicine with the view of relaxing the muscular fibres, in cases of strangulated hernia, intestinal obstruction, asthma, strychnine poisoning, tetanus, etc.; but is no longer so employed on account of its dangerous depressant action.

Consult: Killebrew and Myrick, Tobacco, Its Culture, Cure, Marketing, and Manufacture (New York, 1897); Lock, Tobacco Growing, Curing, and Manufacture (London, 1886); Senseney, Tobacco from the Seed to the Warehouse (Chambersburg, Pa., 1878); United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, Farmers' Bulletin No. 60, Methods of Curing Tobacco; No. 83, Tobacco Soils; No. 120, Insects Affecting Tobacco; Division of Soils, Report No. 62, Cultivation for Cigar Leaf Tobacco in Florida; No. 63, Work of the Agricultural Experiment Stations on Tobacco; Arnold, History of the Tobacco Industry in Virginia (Baltimore, 1897); A. M. and J. Ferguson, All About Tobacco, Including Practical Instruction in Planting, Cultivating, and Curing (Colombo, Ceylon, 1889); Ragland, Tobacco. How to Raise It and How to Make It Pay (Hyso, Va., 1895); Sim, Tobacco From Seed Bed to Packing Case (Etiwanda, Cal., 1897).