Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Cigarette Wars: The Triump of "The Little White Slaver"

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Cigarette Wars: The Triump of "The Little White Slaver"

Article excerpt

Cigarette Wars: The Triumph of "The Little White Slaver." By Cassandra Tate (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Pp. vi, 204; Illustrations. $45 cloth; $18.95 paper.)

Like a number of modern historians, Cassandra Tate begins and ends her history of cigarettes on a personal note. It is this personal note that I found most attractive in reading Cigarette Wars. She begins with her mother starting to smoke at the age of fourteen in 1934 and concludes with her death from lung cancer at the age of seventy-two. She refers to her mother as part of that "golden age" of the cigarette, when it appeared that everyone smoked. Tate sees her mother's habit as both an addiction and as an illustration of the larger culture. It is this personal connection that I found most rewarding in Cigarette Wars. The book allowed me to place the lives, as well as the deaths, of my own parents in perspective.

As historian, Tate does not allow personal interest to interfere with her professional objectivity. She describes the rise of what Henry Ford called "The Little White Slaver." In this story she tells how James Duke of the American Tobacco Company gave the cigarette mainstream appeal for both men and women.

Of interest to Illinois readers is that in the first cigarette war, the period before the First World War, the chief opponent of the cigarette was Lucy Page Gaston of Harvey, Illinois. Tate correctly places Gaston within the context of a temperance community's moral fervor. The Gaston family had moved to the tea-totaling town of Harvey in 1893, and Lucy was active in temperance affairs, which led her to her special mission of saving boys from the evils of tobacco. …

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