A History Of The Tobacco Industry In America

2876 words - 12 pages

Tobacco has played an enormous part in the economy and society of America.Since Columbus landed in the New World, Europeans have been exposed to the tobacco plant. And when Europeans settled in North America, this was, in many places, their most important crop. For years, it provided the newly founded colonies with a primary export and source of income. Tobacco maintained its importance throughout the 17th and most of the 18th century as well, only towards the beginning of the 19th century seeing a defined decrease in its production in America (Kluger, 63). It is still a huge market today, however. Throughout its long history in America, the tobacco industry, as with most, has been constantly changing. New, more convenient forms of production and distribution made it easier to produce and sell larger numbers of tobacco products as the years went on. However, there wasn't as much of a demand for American tobacco as the years went on. Basically, despite the fact that the quantity of tobacco produced yearly and its economic importance decreased over time, the means of production and selling became increasingly easier and more convenient.The Jamestown colony, founded in 1607, was the first settlement in America to make great use of tobacco. They, under the guidance of John Rolfe, had perfected methods of growing and curing tobacco, and had a huge European market, as many people simply could not get enough of "the weed", as it came to be known. In 1613, Rolfe sent 200 pounds of his tobacco to England, from where demands for more soon came (Johnson). Rolfe was competing with the Spanish tobacco market, so he imported seeds from Spain so he could grow a sweeter type of tobacco, and his success in selling to England continued.The success that Jamestown experienced in growing and selling tobacco is reflected in how much tobacco they grew there. So much was grown, in fact, that it covered the farms and streets. It eventually led to government intervention, and the deputy governor of Jamestown prohibited anyone from growing tobacco unless they also grew at least two acres of corn for food purposes, as many farmers had been neglecting to grow crops vital for life, focusing instead on tobacco as their sole crop (Link Exchange).This demonstrates how vital tobacco production really was to the early American settlers and their survival as colonies. It is arguable that without tobacco, either the American colonies would not have survived or they would not have expanded and populated themselves so quickly. (Johnson) Jamestown did, of course, face many hardships in their early years, and some of the tension was relieved by the tobacco plant and the trade with England that the colonies were able to institute due to their abundance of the highly sought weed. Its popularity and abundance had spread from Virginia to Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the Carolinas by the mid 17th century, and it played an equally important part in each of those colonies and their...

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