Ah, Joe Camel. Once you were everywhere — from convenience-store doors to playing cards to koozies. By 1997, however, public criticism and relentless litigation led RJR to end your reign.
Why do Joe Camel and other cheesy tobacco ephemera deserve a place in the North Carolina Collection? Take it away, Emily Jack!
“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)
“In 1875, R.J. Reynolds founded his tobacco company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and in 1905, at age 55, he married 25-year-old Mary Katharine Smith in her nearby hometown of Mount Airy….
“Her navy dress was a departure from the normative practices of the class into which she was marrying.
“But a white wedding dress would not have been a practical choice…. Immediately after the ceremony, the Reynoldses took a train to Greensboro and then boarded another train to New York City, where the Baltic awaited them, an ocean liner owned by the White Star Line that would late commission the Titanic. They landed in Liverpool, traveled to London, and began a tour of Europe’s great cities….
“Her navy dress was also a sign she could afford more than a white gown: She could afford Europe in the form of the ‘Grand Tour,’ a required undertaking from the nineteenth century for wealthy Americans…. It was a kind of ‘finishing.’
“Navy blue signified not her pristine and protected removal from the world, as white would have, but her status as a traveler. It stood for a geographic mobility that mirrored her social mobility…. The Grand Tour was a sign of the elite position she would claim on their return.”
— From “A Navy Wedding Dress and a Voyage” by Susan Harlan in Deep South (May 2015)
“[E.C. “Redge”] Hanes said… what stuck with him was the example set by his father, J. Gordon Hanes Jr., who presided over the merged Hanes Corporation’s substantial growth and also served as North Carolina state senator in the 1960s….
“One lesson that stood out was when his father, as state senator, sued the county to force a park to integrate. It had been willed to Winston-Salem for white residents by a descendant of R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco magnate, with the stipulation that any challenge would prompt the park to revert to the family.
“ ‘It wasn’t a good political move, but he said it was the right move,’ Mr. Hanes said. His father was subsequently voted out of office.”
— From “What the Most Fortunate Learn During the Holiday Season: From the Likes of the Roosevelts and the Haneses, Family Lessons Gleaned” by Paul Sullivan in the New York Times (Dec. 26)
“Disappointed by soft ticket sales for an exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers, [Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall] called the host city of Winston-Salem… a ‘lousy town.’
“Stung by the criticism, the Rotary Club invited him to take a tour of the city. He accepted, only to ridicule the R. J. Reynolds tobacco factory, the Western Electric plant and the airport and people who enjoyed flying. At an underwear plant, he said: ‘I haven’t worn an undershirt in 25 years. Only wear shorts. Guess I cut your business in half.’
” ‘Winston-Salem turned the other cheek to critic George Preston Marshall,’ wrote the Winston-Salem Journal, ‘and he managed to slap it too.’ ”
— From “Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins” by Thomas G. Smith (2011)
For entirely different reasons, Packers Coach Vince Lombardi had his own ill feelings toward Winston-Salem, where the teams played an annual exhibition 1955-60.
“Free from the grip of Northern interlopers [after the 1911 breakup of the tobacco trust], Mr. RJ began force-feeding Reynolds stock to employees. … Never mind that many didn’t want to go into hock….As the value of Reynolds stock ballooned in coming years, Winston-Salem came to be known as ‘the city of reluctant millionaires.’…
“[After the 1989 buyout by KKR] the world’s greatest concentration of RJR shareholders [wasn’t] thanking [departing CEO F. Ross] Johnson even as the money gushed into town. Nearly $2 billion of checks arrived there in the late-February mail…. The river of money had washed away the last of RJR’s stock. Local brokers and bankers who managed people’s money got calls from distraught clients. ‘I won’t sell my stock,’ more than one sobbed. ‘Daddy said don’t ever sell the RJR stock.’ They were patiently told they had to. They were told the world had changed.”
— From “Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco” by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar (1990)
“Fueled by rage at Roosevelt and possessed of an attractive candidate [Wendell Willkie] to run against him….the GOP was gearing up — and shelling out — for a supreme effort….
“The [Democrats] had been outspent in every national election since 1920, and…never had the supply of funds been shorter than in 1940.
“The five great radio speeches by Roosevelt… that were to boost his popularity during the last days of the campaign would not have been broadcast had not Richard Reynolds [Jr.], of the North Carolina tobacco family, appeared on the scene with a last-minute $175,000 loan to pay for the radio time.”
— From “The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1)” (1982) by Robert A. Caro
Whatever your opinion of the long-disputed Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, this bronze-clad sculpture of deliveryman Captain James Jack is quite a piece of advocacy art.
I can think of two other examples of equestrian statues in North Carolina: Gen. Nathanael Greene in Greensboro and R. J. Reynolds in Winston-Salem. Are there more?
“As concerns about the health implications of smoking persisted — and then increased — in the 1930s and 1940s, advertising explicitly addressed these anxieties…. R. J. Reynolds fixed on the likely notion that smokers would be attracted to the brand that their physician chose, and that physicians would advocate for a brand that lionized the medical profession….
“The ‘More Doctors Smoke Camels’ campaign was apparently based on the work of A. Grant Clarke, a William Esty ad executive, on loan to R. J. Reynolds to establish a Medical Relations Division. Clarke would distribute free packs of Camels at medical conventions; pollsters from an ‘independent research organization’ would then be sent to ask the physicians what brand of cigarettes they were carrying.”
— From “The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America” (2007) by Allan M. Brandt