“Much of the limited urban growth in post-Civil War North Carolina owed to the increased manufacturing of tobacco, the South’s oldest staple crop. “In the late 19th century the state’s dominance of the expanding tobacco industry resulted from several factors — declining cotton prices that induced farmers in the Piedmont to plant more tobacco, technological developments that initiated the mass production of cigarettes, improved railroads that connected North Carolina with national and international markets, and the bold entrepreneurship of men like James B. Duke and R. J. Reynolds, who formed vast monopolies and drove less ruthless competitors from the field. The success of Duke and Reynolds brought Durham and Winston, the communities in which they located their enterprises, to the forefront of the state’s emerging urban network.”
— From “Tobacco Towns: Urban Growth and Economic Development in Eastern North Carolina” by Roger Biles in the North Carolina Historical Review (April 2007)
“I was born and reared in a major tobacco-growing and manufacturing state, Virginia, and was educated and lived for a long time in an even more important tobacco state, North Carolina. In that environment it was difficult not to be seduced at an early age into making cigarettes part of one’s way of life.
“Back in the 1940s salesmen from such nearby cigarette-producing citadels as Richmond, Durham and Winston-Salem used to swarm like grasshoppers all over the campuses of the upper South, hustling their wares. Usually dressed in seersucker suits and wearing evangelical smiles, they’d accost you between classes and press into your palm little complimentary packs of four Lucky Strikes or Chesterfields, give you a pep talk and try to sell you their brand. If you were not a smoker, which was rare at a time when cigarettes were not only in vogue but the norm, you would soon become one, made helpless by the unremitting largesse….”
— From “My Generation: Collected Nonfiction” by William Styron (2015)
On this day in 1929: Touting his program to make N.C. agriculture more diverse and self-sufficient during the coming hard times, Gov. O. Max Gardner invites newspaper editors to a “Live at Home” dinner at the Executive Mansion.
Among menu items: oysters from Hyde County, scuppernong juice from the Coastal Plain Test Farm at Willard, ham from Caledonia prison farm, cheese from Kraft in West Jefferson, peach conserve from home demonstration clubs in Moore County, ice cream from N.C. State and cigarettes from R.J. Reynolds, Liggett & Myers and American Tobacco.
On this day in 1964: A report by U.S. surgeon general Luther Terry marshals evidence that smoking causes cancer and other diseases, effectively sending North Carolina’s tobacco industry into a long, slow slide.