RJR: ‘Happy Holidays and Happy Smoking!’

“Recently, an investigation into the history of the phrase ‘Happy Holidays’ as a seasonal greeting in the United States by self-described history nerd Jeremy Aldrich turned up its usage as early as 1863, in the Philadelphia Inquirer. By the middle of the 20th century, the phrase was well established in popular usage, as shown in a study of ads run by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in Carolina Magazine from 1935 to 1942 to encourage giving the gift of tobacco.

“A 1937 ad proclaimed: ‘A gift of Camels says, “Happy Holidays and Happy Smoking!” ‘ Other ads from the 1930s and early 1940s stuck to ‘Season’s Greetings,’ but all featured jolly, grinning Santa Clauses, reindeer, Christmas trees and other recognizable Christmas symbols….”

— From “The War of Words behind ‘Happy Holidays’” by at history.com (Dec. 14)


Could Richmond have become ‘Camel City’?

“The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., formerly one of the largest subsidiaries of the American Tobacco Co., contemplates entering the cigarette manufacturing field.

“The main plug and smoking tobacco factories of the company are located at Winston-Salem, N.C., but it has not definitely decided as yet whether or not to locate the cigarette manufacturing end of its business in that city. The uncertainty is due to the fact that a bill framed to prevent cigarette manufacture is before the North Carolina state legislature.

“The company has two large warehouses in Richmond, and in the event of unfavorable legislation in North Carolina, the cigarette manufacturing for the company will be undertaken in Virginia.”

– From “If Legislation is Unfavorable in North Carolina, Plant May Be Located in Virginia” in the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 22, 1913)

I haven’t found details on the proposed ban on cigarette manufacturing, but it must not have turned out to be a problem — just a few months later Reynolds’ Winston-Salem plant would be turning out 425 million Camels per year.


Where there’s smoke, there’s… steam

“In 1942 the North Carolina crowd at Reynolds Tobacco invaded American Tobacco’s headquarters town and put up a huge sign for Camel in Times Square. Overnight it became the nation’s most famous billboard.

“Two stories high and running half a block… the sign had just three elements: the brand name, its old slogan ‘I’d Walk a Mile for a Camel’ and the  head and shoulders of an American serviceman — a soldier one season, a sailor the next, an airman the one after that — who had for a mouth a perfectly round hole about a yard wide. Behind the hole was a chamber with a synthetic rubber backing that a cam would pull taut as the chamber filled with piped-in steam; a second gear would then cause the elastic membrane to relax with a whooshing sound and propel out the hole several times a minute a perfect simulated  smoke ring that would grow to about 15 feet in width as it wafted over the heart of the nation’s premier entertainment district. Countless millions gawked at the Camel ‘smoking’ sign during the 25 years it remained in place, serving as the prototype for some two dozen smaller versions around the country.”

— From “Ashes to Ashes: America’s Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris” (1996) by Richard Kluger

Although a 1999 New York Times obituary of Douglas Leigh, who designed the Camel billboard (and many other Times Square “spectaculars”), refers to its having been “duplicated in 22 other cities,” San Francisco is the only one I’ve been able to confirm. Might North Carolina have had one or more?