The Pernicious Weed: Anti-Tobacco Sentiments in Periodical Literature, 1800-1870

By Smith, Shane A. | The Historian, Spring 2015 | Go to article overview

The Pernicious Weed: Anti-Tobacco Sentiments in Periodical Literature, 1800-1870


Smith, Shane A., The Historian


"[S]hew me one blackleg, from Dan to Beersheba, who does not use the weed, and I will shew you a sea serpent." (1)

--Reverend George Trask

Offered a good cigar, [Horace Greeley] waved it away with: "No, I thank you. I haven't got so low down as that yet. I only drink and swear." (2)

--Horace Greeley

THE ANTI-TOBACCO MOVEMENT in the United States did not suddenly spring into existence after the US Surgeon General's Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health issued its January 1964 report. Concerns about tobacco's harmful effects began emerging soon after Christopher Columbus received its dried leaves from the Arawaks in October 1492 and its use began to spread. (3) Although their actions are largely unacknowledged in the contemporary era, the late-twentieth-century movement had its foundations in the first organized actions of activists against "the filthy weed" in the nineteenth century.

Anti-tobacconists in that latter period were familiar with the history and literature of those who had assailed the plant before them. In addition to speeches, sermons, books, and tracts, reformers utilized the era's periodical literature to spread their crusade. This literature provides an excellent lens for examining their arguments against tobacco's use. Agitators assaulted it as an agricultural, social, physical (or health), and moral evil. Herein rests a chief difference between the early-nineteenth-century movement and those that came later. Anti-tobacco reformers of this earlier period sought voluntary abstinence through moral persuasion, while the Progressive-Era and late-twentieth-century movements pursued legal prohibition, in addition to voluntary measures. Even though they lacked the benefits of modern science on the topic, nineteenth-century writers presented many arguments similar to those of their modern counterparts, as well as some quite exaggerated ideas.

The anti-tobacconists acted in a time filled with Second-Great-Awakening-inspired movements. This Christian revival gave groups a sense of mission to maximize the value of each individual in God's eyes. Activists sought improvements in education, medical care, treatment for the mentally ill, and in women's rights, in addition to temperance and abolition. (4) However, this era's anti-tobacco efforts lost momentum in the 1850s, when abolition increasingly overwhelmed other social issues in the public discourse. It largely ceased with the Civil War's outbreak.

Scholarship specifically related to anti-tobacco efforts in the United States is almost exclusively focused on either the Progressive-Era or late-twentieth-century movements. For instance, in his book Tobacco in History: The Cultures of Dependence, Jordan Goodman states,

   To speak of an early movement in the United States would be an
   exaggeration since the movement was perhaps no more than the
   publication, at irregular times, of the Anti-Tobacco Journal
   between 1857 and 1872. The main object of the attack was chewing
   tobacco and the main thrust was its uncleanliness. (5)

Mark Wolfson's and Ronald Troyer's publications also support the stance that there have only been two waves of tobacco control activism in American history, the Progressive Era and the one emerging in the 1960s. (6)

As revealed by these representative examples, this school of thought sees the first true anti-tobacco movement forming in response to the cigarette's proliferation in the last two decades on the nineteenth century. This phase produced anti-tobacco legislation in 15 states, while 22 others considered it. Lucy Page Gaston (1860-1924), founder of the Anti-Cigarette League of America, is highlighted as the primary activist with support from leading lights like Henry Ford, Frances Willard, and Thomas Edison. (7) Another war, this time the First World War helped deflate the movement: Almost all legislation was repealed by 1930. Prohibitions on the sale of tobacco products to minors were this period's legacy. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Pernicious Weed: Anti-Tobacco Sentiments in Periodical Literature, 1800-1870
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.