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Damaged PW


 

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 Why do people Collect?

 You may as well ask why do people fall in love?  The reasons are irrational, the motives are mixed and the original impulse is often discolored or betrayed.  I started collecting paperweights when I was in my 20s.  But like most of my collectibles I didn’t really focus on building a collection….it just happened.  When asked, as we often are, what do you want for your birthday, Christmas etc. I would tell friends and family, well I do collect paperweights.  I suppose that is why I have such an eclectic mix of glass paperweights.

Over the last five months I have covered a fairly large range of subjects about collecting, collectors and the many collectibles that I have, in this blog.  How to research collectibles and the joy of discovering the story behind your collectible.  The stories about the makers and collectors of paperweights are rich and sometimes mysterious.  That makes for an interesting and exciting hobby to collect these art objects.

Over the next few weeks or months, (however long it takes me) I will try to tell you about paperweights, who makes them, who collects them and why.  It should be fun so follow along and check back often as I buy, sell, trade and build my collection.

Essence of paperweights

Decorative glass paperweights fit easily into the hand and are actually meant to be handled and viewed from various directions through the dome, which acts like a lens to make the design change in its appearance with its movements in an attractive way. A magnifying glass is often used to gain appreciation of the fine detail of the work within.

They have a flat or slightly concave base on which they stably rest, and a domed top, which may be faceted or cut. The glass is usually lead glass. The dome may be coated with one or more thin layers of colored glass, and have windows cut through it to reveal the interior motif. The exact shape or profile of the dome varies somewhat from one artist or factory to another, but in fine examples will be tuned to the subject within to show it off to best advantage. The base may be frosted, but is more often polished. They may also be cut in one of several variations. Star-cut bases have a multi-pointed star, while a diamond cut base has grooves cut in a criss-cross pattern. A footed weight has a flange in the base.

The ground on which the inner parts rest may be clear or colored, made of unfused sand, or resemble lace (latticinio).

Paperweights are made by sole artisans, and in factories where many artists and technicians collaborate. Both may produce inexpensive as well as “collector” weights. Workmanship, design, rarity, and condition determine the value of a paperweight. They range in price from a few dollars, to a record $258,500 once paid for an antique French weight. Antique weights, of which perhaps 10,000 or so survive (mostly in museums), generally appreciate steadily in value.

Visible flaws, such as bubbles, striations and scratches affect the value. Glass should not have a yellow or greenish cast, and there should be no unintentional asymmetries, or unevenly spaced or broken elements. Generally, larger weights are more costly and desirable. In a modern piece, an identifying mark and date are imperative.

History of the paperweight

Antique paperweights were made in the “classic” years between 1845 and 1860 primarily in three French factories named Baccarat, St. Louis, and Clichy. They made between fifteen and twenty five thousand weights in the classic period. Pantin, also a French glass company is known to a lessor degree but should be added as a great paperweight company of the period.  Weights (mainly of lesser quality) were also made in the United States, Great Britain, and elsewhere, though Bacchus (UK) and New England Glass Company (USA) produced some that equaled the best of the French. Modern weights have been made from about 1950 to the present.

In the U.S., Charles Kaziun started in 1940 to produce buttons, paperweights, inkwells and other bottles, using lamp-work of elegant simplicity. In Scotland, the pioneering work of Paul Ysart from the 1930s onward preceded a new generation of artists such as William Manson, Peter McDougall, Peter Holmes and John Deacons. A further impetus to reviving interest in paperweights was the publication of Evangiline Bergstrom’s book, Old Glass Paperweights, the first of a new genre. NOTE:  I only put photos of items I own or have owned in my blog, so anytime you see a photo you know it is part of my collection.  I don’t use anyone’s photos but my own.

    

Charles Kaziun Jr.,  “Crimped Rose” Perfume Bottle.  An older piece marked with blue “K” in a white cane with a blue border and then a yellow flowered border.  The mark is under the flower. (Recently sold to a collector in Dallas, TX.)

    

Charles Kaziun Jr. Miniature Pedestal paperweight, Spider Lily on Gold flecked background (one of his most popular peices) marked with his characteristic 14 karat gold “K” signature on the bottom side of the ball of the weight.  Currently being sold on eBay for $435.00.  Actual retail value listed in price guide is $1400.00.

A number of small studios appeared in the middle 20th century, particularly in the US. These may have several to some dozens of workers with various levels of skill cooperating to produce their own distinctive “line”. Notable examples are Lundberg Studios, Orient and Flume, Correia Art Glass, Lotton, and Parabelle Glass. In later blogs I will talk about and show photos of my collection of all of these studios.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, artists such as Paul Stankard, his former assistant, Jim D’Onofrio, Chris Buzzini, Delmo and daughter Debbie Tarsitano, Victor Trabucco and sons, Gordon Smith, Rick Ayotte and his daughter Melissa, and the father and son team of Bob and Ray Banford, began breaking new ground and were able to produce fine paperweights rivaling anything produced in the classic period.

Types of glass paperweights

Collectors may specialize in one of several types of paperweights, but more often they wind up with an eclectic mix.

Millefiori paperweights contain thin cross-sections of cylindrical composite canes made from colored rods and usually resemble little flowers, although they can be designed after anything, even letters and dates. These are usually made in a factory setting. The exist in many variations such as scattered, patterned, close concentric or carpet ground. Sometimes the canes are formed into a sort of upright tuft shaped like a mushroom that is incased in the dome.

Lampwork paperweights have objects such as flowers, fruit, butterflies or animals constructed by shaping and working bits of colored glass with a gas burner or torch and assembling them into attractive compositions, which are then incorporated into the dome. This is a form particularly favored by studio artists. The objects are often stylized, but may be highly realistic.

Sulfide paperweights have an encased cameo-like medallion or portrait plaque made from a special ceramic that is able to reproduce very fine detail. They often are produced to commemorate some person or event. Although still produced today their heyday was before the classic period.

Swirl paperweights have opaque rods of two or three colors radiating like a pinwheel from a central millefiori floret. A similar style, the marbrie, is a millefiori containing weight that has several bands of color close to the surface that descend from the apex in a looping pattern to the bottom of the weight.

Another variation is the Crown weight. It has twisted ribbons, alternately colored and lacy white, which radiate from the crown from a central millefiori floret down to converge again at the base. This was first devised in the Saint Louis factory and remains popular today.

Miniature weights have a diameter of less than two inches or so, and magnums have a diameter greater than about 3.25 inches.

California-style paperweights are made by “painting” the surface of the dome with colored molten glass (torchwork), and manipulated with picks or other tools. They may also be sprayed while hot with various metallic salts to achieve an iridescent look.

Victorian portrait and advertising paperweights were dome glass paperweights first made in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania using a process patented in 1882 by William H. Maxwell. The portrait paperweights contained pictures of ordinary people reproduced on a milk glass disk and encased within clear glass. This same process was also used to produce paperweights with the owner’s name encased or an advertisement of a business or product. Pittsburgher Albert A. Graeser, patented a different process for making advertising paperweights in 1892. The Graeser process involved sealing an image to the underside of a rectangular glass blank using a milkglass or enamellike glaze. Many paperweights of the late 1800s are marked either J. N. Abrams or Barnes and Abrams and may list either the 1882 Maxwell or 1892 Graeser patent date. It has been theorized that Barnes and Abrams did not actually manufacture advertising paperweights for their customers, but instead subcontracted the actual manufacturing task out to Pittsburgh area glasshouses. The Paperweight Collectors Association Annual Bulletins published for 2000, 2001 and 2002 describe these in detail.

Bohemian paperweights were particularly popular in Victorian times. Large engraved or cut hollow spheres of ruby glass were a common form.

Museum collections

Notable displays of paperweight collections can be seen in a number of museums. The Wheaton Village museum in Millville, NJ has many examples of American paperweights. The Bergstrom-Mahler museum in Neenah, Wisconsin contains a particularly fine collection of representative paperweights. The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY also has an exceptional collection of fine paperweights.

Paperweight collectors

There are many paperweight collectors worldwide. Several collectors associations hold national or regional conventions, and sponsor activities such as tours, lectures, and auctions. Famous collectors include such literary figures as Collete, Oscar Wilde and Truman Capote. Princess Eugenie, Napoleon III’s wife, the wife of Mexico’s Emporer Maximillion and King Farouk were also avid collectors.

Paperweights just have to be the most interesting items I collect. You can see most of my collection being sold on eBay by putting your cursor on My Assistant “the duck” and press enter to go to my eBay store, Kelekchens.  So…follow along with me as I describe my collection and the stories behind it all.  Until next time Happy Collecting and remember “the best is yet to come”.


Meerschaum is a soft white mineral sometimes found floating on the Black Sea, and rather suggestive of sea-foam, whence also the French name for the same substance, écume de mer.
Meerschaum is opaque and of white, grey or cream color, breaking with a conchoidal or fine earthy fracture, and occasionally fibrous in texture. Because it can be readily scratched with the nail, its hardness is placed at about 2. The specific gravity varies from 0.988 to 1.279, but the porosity of the mineral may lead to error. Meerschaum is a hydrous magnesium silicate with the formula H4Mg2Si3O10.

Most of the meerschaum of commerce is obtained from Asia Minor, chiefly from the plain of Eskisehir in Turkey, between Instanbul and Ankara. It occurs there in irregular nodular masses, in alluvial deposits, which are extensively worked for its extraction. It is said that in this district there are 4000 shafts leading to horizontal galleries for extraction of the meerschaum. The principal workings are at Sepetçi Ocağı and Kemikçi Ocağı, about 20 miles southeast of Eskisehir. The mineral is associated with Magnesite(magnesium carbonate), the primitive source of both minerals being a serpentine.

When first extracted meerschaum is soft, but it hardens on exposure to solar heat or when dried in a warm room. Meerschaum is also found, though less abundantly, in Greece, as at Thebes, and in the islands of Euboea and Samos; it occurs also in serpentine at Hrubschitz near Kromau in Moravia. It is found to a limited extent at certain localities in France and Spain, and is known in Morocco. In the United States it occurs in serpentine in Pennsylvania (as at Nottingham, Chester County) and in South Carolina and Utah.

Meerschaum has occasionally been used as a substitute for soapstone, fuller’s earth, and as a building material; but its chief use is for smoking pipes and cigarette holders. When smoked, Meerschaum pipes gradually change color, and old Meerschaums will turn incremental shades of yellow, orange, and red from the base on up. When prepared for use as a pipe, the natural nodules are first scraped to remove the red earthy matrix, then dried, again scraped and polished with wax. The crudely shaped masses thus prepared are turned and carved, smoothed with glass-paper and Dutch rushes, heated in wax or stearine, and finally polished with bone-ash, etc.

Meerschaum products traditionally were made in manufacturing centres such as Vienna. Since the 1970s, though, Turkey has banned the exportation of meerschaum nodules, trying to set up a local meerschaum industry. The once famous manufacturers have therefore disappeared. Nowadays, meerschaum pipes not obtained from Turkish producers are usually made of pressed meerschaum or African meerschaum, which are inferior in quality.

Imitations are made in plaster of Paris and other preparations.

The soft, white, earthy mineral from Långbanshyttan, in Varmland. Sweden, known as aphrodite ( sea foam), is closely related to meerschaum.

All of these pipes were made in Turkey and are of the highest quality.  Hand carved and occasionally signed by the carver.

         

Sherlock and Holmes in a beautiful presentation case.

         

Titled “Pasha” hand carved by Cevher, from Turkey ca. 2008

              

Titled “Sultan” hand carved by Tethi in 2009 from Eskisehir, Turkey.

              

Very well done “Chief” meerschaum pipe. Carved in 2010, unsigned.

 

         

An “Eagle’s Claw” clutching the pipe bowl carved by Artestika ca. 2009 in form fitted case.

 

Meerschaum is a very rare mineral, a kind of hard white clay. Light and porous structure of the pipe keeps the smoke cool and soft. Simply put, it is a unique smoking experience. Meerschaum is the most flavorful and beautiful pipe you can own. This Pipe is made of high quality Eskisehir meerschaum which is very well known to pipe experts. Unlike briar, meerschaum does not burn. Meerschaum pipes do not need pre-smoking for quality performance. Each pipe is hand crafted art. The stone acts as a filter, absorbing tobacco tars and nicotine, and yields a most satisfying smoke. Meerschaum smokes cool and dry with a flavor unrivaled by any other pipe. Because of its peculiarity, meerschaum pipes slowly change their color to different tones of rich honey-brown. This adds a pleasing esthetic enjoyment to its great smoking pleasure. The longer the pipe is smoked the more valuable it becomes due to the color change.

 

         

Titled “The Viking”. Purchased in the 1970s still in original box with papers.  Lightly smoked, just starting to change color.

You can see all of my hand-carved, museum quality,  Meerschaum pipes at my eBay store Kelekchens.  Put your cursor on my assistant (the duck), double click and your there.

Until next time, Happy Collecting and remember “the best is yet to come!”


Zino Davidoff was born on March 11, 1906 in Kiev, Russian Empire, present-day Ukraine. He was the eldest of four children born to tobacco merchant, Henri Davidoff. Even in his own autobiographical writings, the facts on Zino’s youth are a bit hazy, as he was quite young during this time and could only piece together some stories of his youth. His parents were either cigar merchants or cigarette manufacturers in Kiev. Fleeing the political turmoil and anti-Semitism prevalent in Russia, his parents left some of their family behind and emigrated to Geneva, Switzerland in 1911 for a better life and opened their own Tobacconist shop in 1912. Finishing school in 1924, he went to Latin America to learn about the tobacco trade, spending time in such places as Argentina, Brazil, and finally Cuba where he spent two years working on a plantation and first encountered Cuban cigars.

Returning to Switzerland around 1930, he took over his parents’ shop. What had originally been a modest tobacco shop grew into a rich business during and after WW II. Neutral Switzerland was spared much of the havoc wreaked elsewhere in Europe and became a haven for wealthy tobacco customers. Zino was particularly successful in marketing the Hoyo de Monterrey Châteaux Series of Cuban cigars created for Zurich cigar distributor A Durr Co., in the 1940s and named after great Bordeaux wines.  Around this time, Zino is also credited by many as having invented the first desktop cigar humidor, in order to preserve cigars at the same conditions of humidity and temperature under which they were rolled in Havana. Davidoff also had success writing several books on cigar smoking and Cuban cigar brands.

In 1970, Zino sold his small but highly successful tobacco shop in Geneva to the Max Oettinger Group. Zino stayed on as Davidoff’s ambassador until his death in 1994 at the age of 87. He was survived by his wife and daughter, who remained in Switzerland and by his siblings that had since moved to other parts of the world, mainly North America. Till his last moments, Zino an avid family man, sought out to find his lost family history back in the Soviet Union and then the emerging independent states of Russia and Ukraine. Unfortunately, many historical documents had been lost and so had his search. Not much information exists on their whereabouts, but through saved notes by Zino, it has been speculated that many had defected to North America in the early to mid 70’s, some under new identities and family names.

A tobacconist is an expert dealer in tobacco in various forms and the related accoutrements. Such accoutrements include pipes, lighters, matches, pipe cleaners, pipe tampers, ashtrays, humidors and more. Books and magazines, especially ones having to do with tobacco are commonly offered. Items irrelevant to tobacco such as puzzles, games, figurines, hip flasks, and candy are sometimes sold. A tobacconist shop is traditionally represented by a wooden Indian positioned nearby.

Although I am not really a tobacconist, I have collected many tobacciana collectibles that are offered for sale at my eBay store “Kelekchens”.  You won’t see a wooden Indian but here are a few vintage and antique humidors:

                        

Noritake and Nippon Porcelain Humidors ca. early 19oo’s.

   

Marzi & Remy Porcelain Humidor – Germany ca. 1940’s

    

Metal Humidors – Adam Verde and a Boston Rumidor ca. 1940’s to 1950’s

                   

Glass Humidors – Heisey glass, polychrome mesh (1920’s Art Deco), EAPG  and  Victorian Humidors.

Hand thrown, stone crock humidor with pipe rest lid.

Depression glass, Moongleam, cigarette humidor.

And my favorite:

                   

A stunning humidor with beautiful glass.  Double click on the photos to see better details.

You can see these and many more from my collection.  Place your cursor on my assistant “the Duck” and click to go to my eBay store Kelekchens. Open tobacciana and your there.

Until next time Happy Collecting and remember “the best is yet to come!”


Smoking has been accepted into culture, in various art forms, and has developed many distinct, and often conflicting or mutually exclusive, meanings depending on time, place and the practitioners of smoking. Pipe smoking, until recently one of the most common forms of smoking, is today often associated with solemn contemplation, old age and is often considered quaint and archaic. Cigarette smoking, which did not begin to become widespread until the late 19th century, has more associations of modernity and the faster pace of the industrialized world. Cigars have been, and still are, associated with masculinity, power and is an iconic image associated with the stereotypical capitalist. Smoking in public during the Victorian age was something reserved for men and when done by women was associated with promiscuity. In Japan during the Edo period, prostitutes and their clients would often approach one another under the guise of offering a smoke and the same was true for 19th century EuropeArt.

The earliest depictions of smoking can be found on Classical Mayan pottery from around the 9th century. The art was primarily religious in nature and depicted deities or rulers smoking early forms of cigarettes.  Soon after smoking was introduced outside of the Americas it began appearing in painting in Europe and Asia. The painters of the Dutch Golden Age were among the first to paint portraits of people smoking and still lifes of pipes and tobacco. For southern European painters of the 17th century, a pipe was much too modern to include in the preferred motifs inspired by mythology from Greek and Roman antiquity. At first smoking was considered lowly and was associated with peasants.  Many early paintings were of scenes set in taverns or brothels. Later, as the Dutch Republic rose to considerable power and wealth, smoking became more common amongst the affluent and portraits of elegant gentlemen tastefully raising a pipe appeared. Smoking represented pleasure, transience and the briefness of earthly life as it, quite literally, went up in smoke. Smoking was also associated with representations of both the sense of smell and that of taste.

In the 18th century smoking became far more sparse in painting as the elegant practice of taking snuff became popular. Smoking a pipe was again relegated to portraits of lowly commoners and country folk and the refined sniffing of shredded tobacco followed by sneezing was rare in art. When smoking appeared it was often in the exotic portraits influenced by Orientalism. Many proponents of post-colonial theory controversially believe this portrayal was a means of projecting an image of European superiority over its colonies and a perception of the male dominance of a feminized Orient.  They believe the theme of the exotic and alien “Other” escalated in the 19th century, fueled by the rise in popularity of ethnology during the Enlightenment.

In the 19th century smoking was common as a symbol of simple pleasures; the pipe smoking “noble savage”, solemn contemplation by Classical Roman ruins, scenes of an artists becoming one with nature while slowly toking a pipe. The newly empowered middle class also found a new dimension of smoking as a harmless pleasure enjoyed in smoking saloons and libraries. Smoking a cigarette or a cigar would also become associated with the bohemian, someone who shunned the conservative middle class values and displayed his contempts for conservatism. But this was a pleasure that was to be confined to a male world; women smokers were associated with prostitution and was not considered an activity in which proper ladies should involve themselves.  It was not until the turn of the century that smoking women would appear in paintings and photos, giving a chic and charming impression. Impressionists like Vincent Van Gogh, who was a pipe smoker himself, would also begin to associate smoking with gloom and fin-du-siècle fatalism.

While the symbolism of the cigarette, pipe and cigar respectively were consolidated in the late 19th century, it was not until the 20th century that artists began to use it fully; a pipe would stand for thoughtfulness and calm; the cigarette symbolized modernity, strength and youth, but also nervous anxiety; the cigar was a sign of authority, wealth and power. The decades following World War II, during the apex of smoking when the practice had still not come under fire by the growing anti-smoking movement, a cigarette casually tucked between the lips represented the young rebel, epitomized in actors like Marlon Brando and James Dean or mainstays of advertising like the Marlboro Man. It was not until the 1970s when the negative aspects of smoking began to appear; the unhealthy lower-class loser, reeking of cigarette smoke and lack of motivation and drive, especially in art inspired or commissioned by anti-smoking campaigns.  This may have been due largely to the Aquarius generation where flower power and Peace culminated in smoking cannibus. A serious collector of tobacciana can build a tremendous collection around the 1970’s era drug culture.  It could be called the “Hippie” collection. Ha ha.

Here are some of the ash rescepticles that I have collected for their beautiful art form.  Most are Asian, Hand Painted, Nippon or Noritake.

                   

                   

              

Collection of Nippon ashtrays, all hand-painted prior to 1921.

 

                   

         

Hand Painted enamel Moriage ashtrays, made in Japan, ca. 1930s – 1940s.

 

                        

Collection of Lusreware ashtrays, Made in Japan, ca. 1940s – 1950s

              

Noritake, Hand painted and Made in Japan after 1921.

 

Glass and Brass, Roaring 20s ahstray and humidor.

 

No “butts” about it this is a good sized collection of Japanese ashtrays. All are being sold on eBay at my store “Kelekchens” or you can contact me through this post by entering your request under comments. Just leave your request and a way for me to contact you .  To see these items in my store and other collectibles put your cursor on my assistant “the duck” and press enter.  Until next time happy collecting and remember “the best is yet to come”.

 


Literature

Just as in other types of fiction, smoking has had an important place in literature and smokers are often portrayed as characters with great individuality, or outright eccentrics, something typically personified in one of the most iconic smoking literary figures of all, Sherlock Holmes. Other than being a frequent part of short stories and novels, smoking has spawned endless eulogies, praising its qualities and affirming the author’s identity as a devoted smoker. Especially during the late 19th century and early 20th century, a panoply of books with titles like Tobacco: Its History and associations (1876), Cigarettes in Fact and Fancy (1906) and Pipe and Pouch: The Smokers Own Book of Poetry (1905) were written in the UK and the US. The titles were written by men for other men and contained general tidbits and poetic musings about the love for tobacco and all things related to it, and frequently praised the refined bachelor’s life. The Fragrant Weed: Some of the Good Things Which Have been Said or Sung about Tobacco, published in 1907, contained, among many others, the following lines from the poem A Bachelor’s Views by Tom Hall that were typical of the attitude in many of the books:

My Lady Nicotine: A Study in Smoke (1896) by J.M. Barrie, otherwise best known for his play Peter Pan.
So let us drink
To her, – but think
Of him who has to keep her;
And sans a wife
Let’s spend our life
In bachelordom, – it’s cheaper.
—Eugene Umberger

 

         

 

Lyra Nicotania, Walter Scott, Limited, London – Once owned by the  Harvard College Library, Requested by Samuel Shapleigh, Class of 1789, contains poems and lyrics about Smoking and Tobacco. Harvard College date stamp inside front cover is Nov 15, 1898  From my collection, For Sale $125.00

These works were all published in an era before the cigarette had become the dominant form of tobacco consumption and pipes, cigars and chewing tobacco were still commonplace. Many of the books were published in novel packaging that would attract the learned smoking gentleman. Pipe and Pouch came in a leather bag resembling a tobacco pouch and Cigarettes in Fact and Fancy (1901) came bound in leather, packaged in an imitation cardboard cigar box. By the late 1920s, the publication of this type of literature largely abated and was only sporadically revived in the later 20th century.

Until next time Happy Collectiong and remember “the best is yet to come.”


Early Cultivation

John Rolfe, a colonist from the Jamestown Settlement, was the first to grow tobacco in America. He arrived in Virginia with tobacco seeds procured on an earlier voyage to Trinidad, and in 1612 he harvested his inaugural crop for sale on the European market.  Rolfe’s tobacco operation was an immediate boon for American exports, and English demand increased dramatically when cheap American leaf depressed prices. 15 years after Rolfe’s first crop, English imports of American tobacco had reached almost 500,000 pounds per year, and by 1670 half of the adult male population in England smoked tobacco daily.

Chesapeake Consignment System

The tobacco economy in the colonies was embedded in a cycle of leaf demand, slave labor demand, and global commerce that gave rise to the Chesapeake Consignment System. American tobacco farmers would sell their crop on consignment to merchants in London, which required them to take out loans for farm expenses from London guarantors in exchange for tobacco delivery and sale.  Further contracts were negotiated with wholesalers in Charleston or New Orleans to ship the tobacco to London merchants. The loan was then repaid with profits from their sales.

American planters responded to increased European demand by expanding the size and output of their plantations. The number of man-hours needed to sustain larger operations increased, which forced planters to acquire and accommodate additional slave labor. Furthermore, they had to secure larger initial loans from London, which increased pressure to produce a profitable crop and made them more financially vulnerable to natural disasters.

Differences between the Chesapeake and Deep South

In the Chesapeake and North Carolina, tobacco constituted a major percentage of the total agricultural output. In the Deep South, cotton and rice plantations dominated. Stark diversity in the geographic and social landscapes of these two regions contributed to differences in their respective cultures.

The Chesapeake had relatively few urban centers relative to the South. Instead, multiple markets were established along tributaries. This facilitated the persistence of smaller tobacco farms because the cost of moving tobacco to market was kept reasonable. In the south, all economic activity fed through a few heavily centralized markets, which favored large plantations that could bear the higher transportation costs. Differences in plantation size also owed significantly to the different demands of tobacco farming versus cotton and rice. Cotton and rice were cash crops, and cultivation was geared towards maximizing volume. Diminishing returns take effect on harvest quality past a certain threshold of labor investment. Tobacco, however, was considered to be more artisanal and craft-like, with limitless opportunity to improve the yield and quality. Thus, the most profitable cotton and rice operations were large and factory-like, while tobacco profits hinged on skilled, careful, and efficient labor units.

Colonial Tobacco Culture

A  culture of expertise surrounded tobacco planting. Unlike cotton or rice, cultivating tobacco was seen as an art form, and buyers understood that behind every crop of “good” tobacco was a meticulous planter with exceptional skills. Tobacco shipments were “branded” with a signature unique to its planter before they were sent overseas, and guarantors regarded brands as a seal of approval from the planter himself. One planter proclaimed of his branded tobacco, “it was made on the plantation where I live and therefore as I saw to the whole management of it my self (sic), I can with authority recommend it to be exceedingly good.” Even though not necessarily participating in the manual labor, planters took great financial stake in their final product.

Furthermore, local reputation and social status varied with the quality of one’s leaf. In his book Tobacco Culture, author T.H. Breen writes “quite literally, the quality of a man’s tobacco often served as the measure of the man.” Proficient planters, held in high regard by their peers, often exercised significant political clout in colonial governments. Farmers often spent excess profits on expensive luxury goods from London to indicate to others that their tobacco was selling well. [edit] American Revolution

American tobacco planters, including Jefferson and George Washington, financed their plantations with sizeable loans from London. When tobacco prices dropped precipitously in the 1750s, many plantations struggled to remain financially solvent. Severe debt threatened to unravel colonial power structures and destroy planters’ personal reputations. At his Mount Vernon plantation, Washington saw his liabilities swell to nearly £2000 by the late 1760s. Jefferson, on the verge of losing his own farm, aggressively espoused various conspiracy theories. Though never verified, Jefferson accused London merchants of unfairly depressing tobacco prices and forcing Virginia farmers to take on unsustainable debt loads. In 1786, he remarked:

“A powerful engine for this [mercantile profiting] was the giving of good prices and credit to the planter till they got him more immersed in debt than he could pay without selling lands or slaves. They then reduced the prices given for his tobacco so that…they never permitted him to clear off his debt.”[15]

The inability to pay what one owed was not just a financial failing, but a moral one. Planters whose operations collapsed were condemned as “sorry farmers” – unable to produce good crops and inept at managing their land, slaves, and assets. Washington excused his situation thusly:

“Mischance rather than Misconduct hath been the cause of [my debt]…It is but an irksome thing to a free mind to be always hampered in Debt.”[16]

In conjunction with a global financial crisis and growing animosity toward British rule, tobacco interests helped unite disparate colonial players and produced some of the most vocal revolutionaries behind the call for American independence. A spirit of rebellion arose from their claims that insurmountable debts prevented the exercise of basic human freedoms.

Collectibles of tabacciana are varied and many. Many items such as pipes, humidors, ashtrays, advertsing items etc. are just a few.  The tobacco industry is ingrained in our society from almost the beginning of our nation and helped to provide wealth to America in it’s quest for freedom.

Over the next month I will be marketing many items from my extensive collection of tobacciana, most notably pipes, humidors and ashtrays.  Much of my collection is also part of my asian collection of Nippon.

    

Humidors

 

    

Ashtrays – Nippon, Japanese Enamel Moriage, and Lusterware.

 

    

Hand Carved Meerschaum Pipes from Turkey.

Watch for my items at Bonanzle.com and eBay.  Go to my store now to see what is selling.  Happy Collecting and remember “The Best is Yet to Come!”