Wednesday 7 September 2016

Plugging Away

Plug tobacco is a kind of chewing tobacco, something that was very popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  The handle on the one in this picture is almost 15" (38cm) long with an almost 4.5" (11cm) blade.  It's fairly heavy.

General stores had tobacco cutters so they could easily cut pieces of the bulk form of the pressed tobacco leaves for customers.  This one has a raised imprint on it that says "Enterprise M.F.G. Co. Philadelphia" as well as "Pat. July 25, 1871, Jan. 20, 1885."  Chewing tobacco was so popular that in 1938, RJ Reynolds, manufacturer of the popular Camel cigarette, had 12 brands of smoking tobacco and 84 brands of chewing tobacco.

In fact, it was so popular that "spittoons" were placed in public areas so tobacco chewers had someplace to spit.  Even some church pews were fitted with spittoons!  I guess the parish didn't like having all that spit on their floors.  But, smoke or spit - both seem like good habits not to develop! 


  1. Interesting artifact. I remember a neighbor carrying a plug of tobacco in his shirt pocket and cutting off a chunk with his jack knife. It all looked like a messy habit but then I was quite young at the time!

  2. My grandfather chewed plugs of tobacco. The habit gave him cancer of the bowel as happened to many who had this habit in this era of the 1930's He was 51 years 5 mos. 9 days of age on 19 Jan 1939 when he died.Intestinal Obstruction and carcinoma of the colon with mestastasis into the liver.
    D. Macauley A deadly habit of the times.
    Smoking also caused the death of his son at age 50 in 1962. Also my grandmother's sister at age 35 in 1933 of colon cancer from being a heavy smoker. There were spittoons everywhere for spitting tobacco, even in church.

    1. Yes, it's probably better to stay away from tobacco, regardless of whether it's chewed or smoked!