Norfolk Virginian reports on tobacco output
The Norfolk Virginian reported the acres of farmland that grew tobacco and the
pounds of tobacco harvested as a result in 1891. There were various counties and big
producers included Amherst, Bedford, and Prince Edward. Many of these counties
resided in the Central Virginia region. 24,034 planters planted on 110,579 acres and
produced 48,522,655 pounds of tobacco according to the last census. The total amount
made from the sale of tobacco was 4,323,649 dollars.
The tobacco industry had grown from individually owned tobacco plantations to
massive companies with the advancement in machinery and small plantations could no
longer compete. Machines soon replaced hands in rolling the cigarettes and where a
skilled worker could only roll four cigarettes a minute, the machine could roll two
hundred cigarettes per minute at half the cost. Other regions of the South including
Central Virginia did not manufacture cigarettes and concentrated on chewing tobacco
instead during the late nineteenth century. In comparison to the rest of the South,
Virginia produced 13 percent of the tobacco while North Carolina produced a little less
than 10 percent.
Formerly a place of employment for blacks, many whites started to work in
tobacco production once it became mechanized, and there was clear gender and racial
inequality according to Cooper. White men worked with the cleaner and newer machines
and often supervised, while black men had to do the more intensive labor. White women
were given lighter and cleaner jobs as opposed to black women who were often stuck
with harder tasks such stemming tobacco. In addition, black and white workers usually
worked in separate rooms.
Advertising played a large factor in the tobacco industry. William Duke's son,
James Buchanan, turned his father's small tobacco company into a massive empire. He
attached stickers advertising their brand of cigarettes to every pack. According to
William Cooper, smokers preferred cigars and pipes during the 1860's and smokeless
tobacco users preferred chewing tobacco, however, that view was changing in the late
1890's because of the advertisement of a new tobacco product, the cigarette which would
enable James Buchanan to join the American Tobacco Company, a massive monopoly.
Tobacco was the first profitable staple crop of Virginia running back to the
colonial period. Although the methods of manufacturing tobacco had changed, the
demand for it was still present. Tobacco was still extremely profitable in the 1890's and
Virginia ranked highly in the South for tobacco output. In previous decades of the
nineteenth century, the methods of producing, growing year round instead of seasonally
and manufacturing, using automated machines instead of rolling by hand, had changed so
that the process was quicker and more efficient, and with the development and
construction of railroads, the tobacco product could be delivered quickly to consumers.