from the 1971 Bottles and Relics Magazine reveal the history of Bull Durham smoking
tobacco selling for five cents a bag and billed as "The Cheapest Luxury In The
The tobacco became famous after 1860 when the trademark was
registered, as almost every posed photo of a man showed the small round paper
tags hanging from a vest or shirt pocket. This product took center stage in the
West just like Arbuckle Coffee and Stetson hats.
Durham Tobacco ghost sign in Ardmore, Oklahoma|
TE photo, 2005
years of smoking pipes and chewing the old "rope and cable twists" of tobacco
almost any change was revolutionary. When James R. Green of Durham Station, North
Carolina began offering a finely chopped tobacco, flue-cured for quality and mildness,
his customers jumped at the chance to try his new product. |
When he packaged
the tobacco in a soft white muslin sack with draw-strings, all of which fit neatly
into the average vest or shirt pocket it further enhanced the product. As cigarettes
made their debut, Mr. Green added a small packed of cigarette papers to the bargain
and the rest of the story is history.
Times were hard and most smokers
had to learn to roll their own "quirlies" as called by the cowboys. The chore
called for precise fingertip control, a tender twist to each end to hold the tobacco
inside, a quick lip-flick to stick the paper then light up with a handy kitchen
Numerous old west paintings and illustrations focus on cowboys
working while smoking a quirlie. Masters of the trick bragged they could roll
a quirlie while riding a bucking bronc or sitting on their horse in a 60 mph wind
during a rainstorm.
During the 1870s when homesteaders were flooding
the prairies, some buyers and sellers would stop their horses at a wooden stake,
roll and light a quirlie and start their horses walking. When they both finished
their smoke they drove a stake denoting acres purchased.
of my family except mother and I smoked. I remember Kentucky Twist, Old Hillside,
Prince Albert, Lucky Strike and Camels. One distinct memory is sitting at the
table after supper and working the little red machine, making cigarettes for my
father. I also remember carrying marbles to school in a Bull Durham sack.
Not only did the Bull Durham tags hanging from a pocket somehow distinguish
the person as a "real man" many a lonely cowboy's life was made better when he
met a visitor on the range and they shared the time with a quirlie.
with little money bragged they could make 33 cigarettes out of one five-cent sack
of Bull Durham. The small books of cigarette papers grew from about 30 to 100
as the tobacco companies competed for customers.
Bull Durham had many
imitators down through the years. All labels, sacks, tags, and tax stamps are
very collectible today as well as paintings and advertisements about smoking.
So, the "quirlie, the makins or just roll-your-owns," can take their rightful
place among the many frontier relics and historical collections.
© Delbert Trew
10, 2007 Column
"It's All Trew"
Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164,
by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by email at trewblue@centramedia .net.
For books see delberttrew .com.
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