Little Bits of History

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 27, 2011

Tobacco plant

July 27, 1586: Sir Walter Raleigh returns from the Virginia colony with a new plant for the amusement of English society – tobacco. Raleigh was an English writer,  poet, courtier, explorer, and apparently importer. He was born in 1552 or 54 and was raised Protestant. His family suffered under the rule of Catholic queen Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII who retaliated against the Catholic purges of her father with Protestant purges of her own. The Raleigh family was grateful when half-sister Elizabeth I took over the thrown.

Raleigh was sent to establish a colony in the New World and while Roanoke failed as a colony, it did pave the way for future, more successful settlements. The original colonists were not farmers, but seekers of gold and riches and they were woefully unprepared for settling in the New World. They did trade with the natives and one of the crops was the tobacco plant.

Tobacco, with its high nicotine content is found in the skeletal remains of ancient peoples only from the Americas. However, it is found throughout both American continents. It has grown in its present state since about 6000 BC. By the current era, it was smoked, chewed, and even used in hallucinogenic enemas. In 1492, Columbus ran into an unexpected land mass on his way to India and found natives with tobacco. The sailors brought some back with them and the first smoker in Europe was promptly jailed.

By 1518 Spain was asking for imports of tobacco and within 30 years Brazil was commercially farming the plant for export. Throughout the 1550s, the spread of tobacco covered much of Europe. By 1564, English sailors were using tobacco, but it was not known off the wharves. Raleigh introduced the habit to English society. Today, tobacco is smoked in cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. There is snuff – dry, wet, or even creamy. Snus is steamed snuff and not smoked and has different health effects because of this. Tobacco water is used as a pesticide. And for medical use, the tobacco from one cigarette mixed with a teaspoon of water can be made into a paste and applied to insect stings to stop the pain and itching.

“Never slap a man who chews tobacco.” – Willard Scott

“Under the pressure of the cares and sorrows of our mortal condition, men have at all times, and in all countries, called in some physical aid to their moral consolations — wine, beer, opium, brandy, or tobacco.” – Edmund Burke

“Why is it that everybody’s suing the tobacco companies and not the alcohol companies?” – Donald Trump

“For whosoever commands the sea commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself.” – Walter Raleigh

Also on this day:
What’s up Doc? – In 1940, Bugs Bunny made it to the silver screen.
Reign of Terror – In 1794, Maximilien Robespierre was arrested.

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2 Responses

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  1. Sherry said, on July 28, 2015 at 6:48 am

    One of the worst scourges to affect modern humanity. Smoking gets you nothing but a thinner wallet and disease. I’ve lost three immediate family members because of it; my eldest sister to small-cell lung cancer at 47, grandmother to emphysema, grandfather also to small-cell lung cancer. My mother died a suicide at 37, but she already had the classic pre-emphysemic hack going. My good friend’s boyfriend (a heavy smoker) was diagnosed with stage 4a (4c is the final stage) throat cancer recently. He’s been given a 50/50 chance of survival.

    Do I smoke? Absolutely NOT and never have. You might even say I’m phobic about it! *shudder*

    • patriciahysell said, on July 28, 2015 at 6:57 am

      I have never smoked. I tried it as a teenager and decided it wasn’t worth learning how. One of my happiest days was when my son gave up the habit many years ago.


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