Little Bits of History

Evil Weed

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 25, 2015
Charles Drysdale

Charles Drysdale

September 25, 1878: Dr. Charles Drysdale writes an article for the London Times. At the time of publication, he was the senior physician at the Metropolitan Free Hospital and already a proponent of the evils of smoking. He estimated that Britons were spending £15 million annually for tobacco products. He had published in Med. Circular fourteen years earlier the deleterious effects tobacco use had in otherwise healthy men. He noted that young men smoking just ¾ ounce daily exhibited jaundice while those smoking just ½ ounce daily had heart palpitations. He wrote Tobacco and the Diseases it Produces in 1875. He also published books about syphilis, the evils of prostitution and was the first president of The Malthusian League and wrote a biography about Thomas Malthus.

Tobacco was discovered and used by natives in the Americas long before any Europeans arrived. The new visitors brought it back to Europe and the use of tobacco spread from there around the world. At high enough doses, tobacco can become hallucinogenic and in these doses it was used by experienced shamans or medicine men. It was also used recreationally and many Eastern North American tribes carried tobacco in large pouches as a trade item and to smoke in pipes. This could be done during a proscribed sacred ceremony or to seal a deal. Children were even permitted to participate. Tobacco was a gift from the Creator and the smoke exhaled could convey one’s thoughts and prayers to heaven.

The Spanish crewman Rodrigo de Jerez is credited with being the first to smoke in Europe. It was not seen as a good omen and he was imprisoned by the Inquisition. Smoking became a more common sight and by 1571, Nicolas Monardes wrote a book about medicinal plants in which he claimed tobacco could cure 36 health problems. King James I of England did not agree and in 1604 wrote A Counterblaste to Tobacco, a diatribe against its use. In the Ottoman Empire where it arrived in the late 16th century, it was first described as a medicine, but it was soon found to cause many health problems, not the least of which was bad breath.

Regardless of the bad press, John Rolfe arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1609 and became the first settler to establish a successful tobacco plantation, at the time referred to as “brown gold”. The tobacco native to the region did not suit British taste and so Rolfe tried a different variety from seeds he had brought back from Bermuda. Tobacco was used as currency by many colonials. His plantation was so successful that in 1620 he was able to ship 40,000 pounds of tobacco to England. The total export of tobacco from Jamestown in 1620 was 119,000 pounds. Not only did the product produce health consequences, but it also increased the use of slave labor used to grow the crop.

The use of tobacco is one of the most evident of all the retrograde influences of our time.  – Charles Drysdale

A custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse. – King James I

Neither do thou lust after that tawny weed tobacco. – Ben Jonson

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

Also on this day: The Supremes – In 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to sit on the US Supreme Court.
Fasssssst – In 1997, a new land speed record was set.
Lots of Water – In 1513, Balboa reached the Pacific Ocean.
Spread the News – In 1690, the American colonies got their first locally printed multi-page newspaper.
Off Course – In 1866, the Alexander Nevsky sunk.

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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.