Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820. Originally published by University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, 2007.
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The prepared leaves of the tobacco plant, Nicotiana, a native plant of tropical America, and a member of the Nightshade family. The nitrogenous compound, nicotine, is found both in tobacco itself and in the smoke and, when dried and prepared, a narcotic and sedative substance is formed that produces a number of physiological changes in the body. Climatic condition and soil quality affected the aroma and nicotine content of tobacco. Highly aromatic tobacco was weak in nicotine and vice versa. VIRGINIA TOBACCO, popular in English markets during the early modern period had only a slight aroma, but a low nicotine content [Dunning (1877)].
Europeans first encountered tobacco in the New World. Columbus recorded receiving a present of tobacco leaves in October 1492, and within a few weeks two of his crew observed Amerindians smoking leaves during an expedition to Cuba. In America tobacco was used as an analgesic, through application of leaves to the areas of pain; and as a prestige item, consumed (by smoking, chewing or drinking) to mark the completion of important business [Goodman (1993)]. Compared with other plants and substances found in the New World, tobacco was quickly absorbed into European culture, chiefly as a medicinal plant. Having observed the use of tobacco by Amerindians, the traveller Monardes suggested to his European readers that it could be used to treat 'griefes [in] the Brest', 'the evill of the Mother', bad breath, stone, toothache, worms, ulcers and as a CLYSTER [Monardes (1577)].
When introduced to England, small amounts of tobacco leaves and seeds were used medicinally, to cure toothache, running wounds, Whitlow, skin complaints, scrophulus, rabies, and as disinfectant during times of plague. Marketed as a panacea, it was also believed to cure syphilis and conquer thirst, hunger and insomnia. In animal husbandry it was used as a cure for horses 'with the itch', and as a clyster for SHEEP. These diverse applications notwithstanding, tobacco was used chiefly for smoking, particularly in the TOBACCO PIPE, chewing, and in the form of SNUFF. Championed by such influential men as Walter Raleigh, tobacco consumption quickly became a feature of respectable male sociability; although it could also be associated with dubious behaviour of the lower social classes and sexually promiscuous women. The sixteenth century Dutch writer Emmanuel van Meeteren commented on the English 'public houses for Tobacco', an early reference to the practice of ALE houses, COFFEE houses and taverns providing pipes and other facilities for smoking. Meeteren also commented on the addictive nature of tobacco making people 'like Drunkards to WINE and BEER' so that 'they cannot lose the habit of it'.
Demand for tobacco quickly produced initiatives to grow the plant in Europe, and, by 1570 tobacco plantations were established in Belgium, Spain, Italy and Switzerland [Goodman (1993)]. Small-scale enterprises were also set up in England, most notably around Gloucester. However, fears that English-grown tobacco would jeopardize the tobacco industry in the colonies of VIRGINIA and Maryland, led to a government ban in the mid seventeenth century. Such a precious commodity was tobacco that adulterants were often added to increase the weight. Common adulterants banned in 1715 included leaves of the WALNUT tree, SYCAMORE and HOPs [Acts (1715)]. The importation of unadulterated tobacco was, however, problematic. Even if the process of drying was done successfully prior to shipping, delays in transit or faulty packaging could ruin the entire shipment; problems that are reflected by entries in trading records itemizing DECAYED tobacco leaves [Dunning (1877)].
Early imports were largely of leaf tobacco that was naturally ripe and dried. Tobacco from Brazil and the French Caribbean was spun into strands about a foot long; while that from Chesapeake was exported as a dried leaf packed under a press into HOGSHEADs. At first users had to pulverize the leaf or cut it themselves, but later, either the importer or the retailer prepared it for sale [Brongers (1964)]. The short narrow leaves were usually reserved for making cutting tobacco (known also by the generic name of SHAG) for smoking that was either sold in hand-made bags and hand filled cartridges, or sold wrapped in papers, often containing 4 OUNCEs [Diaries (Turner)]. TOBACCO STEMs and TOBACCO DUST were used to make snuff; and like cutting tobacco it was heavily compressed with a pounder and then placed in a container which was sealed and waxed. TWISTing tobacco was made of the larger leaves originally attached to the central stalk. The leaves were overlaid whereby the larger leaves were on the outside of the twist. The tobacco was sprinkled with a strong BRINE to toughen it and twisted up by hand rather in the mode of spinning wool.
John Baptista Porta, writing in the mid-seventeenth century, waxed lyrical about the 'vertues of Tobacco'. From the seeds 'is expressed an oyl ... which allays the cruel tortures of the gout', the juice, clarified and boiled into a syrup, 'maketh the voyce tunable, clear and loud; very convenient for singing Masters', while the leaves 'cure rotten Sores and Ulcers, running on the legs' [Porta (1658, facs. 1957)]. Such remedial benefits to be gained from the tobacco plant, suggests that it may have been an important plant in a Physics garden.
Tobacco was an important commodity of the early modern period, stimulating trade within Britain and in the Colonies. Writing in the late seventeenth century, Randle Holme noted that 'The Indian weed, that is called Tobacco, was first used by Natives of that countrey in imitation of the Devill, who they saw sitting in a chaire on one of their Alters smoaking a pipe of Tobacco: from thence it was conveyed vnto vs by Captaine Drake, after knighted by Queen Elizabeth by the name of Sir Francis Drake, who brought a small parcell of it ouer with him, but since that tyme it hath bine soe much taken vnto, that now whole ship loads (what said I,) rather Navyes, are brought over to our nations, that the Custome thereof is sufficient to maintaine a Navy or an Army' [Holme (2000)]. In 1692 John Houghton estimated that 'eight million of pounds of tobacco consum'd in a Year in England' [Houghton]. He argued enthusiastically that tobacco provided a positive stimulus to trade generally, as it encouraged the consumption of TEA, coffee, beer and other beverages served in coffeehouses and taverns where smoking was encouraged, and created demand for manufactured goods such as PIPEs, TOBACCO STOPPERs, CANDLEs, PAPER, and MATCHes [Houghton].
See also BARBADOES TOBACCO, BRAZIL TOBACCO, SPANISH TOBACCO, VIRGINIA TOBACCO.
Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates.
References: Brongers (1964), Dunning (1877), Goodman (1991), Holme (2000), Monardes (1577), Porta (1658, facs. 1957).
[tob'o box; tobaco box; tobacko box; tobackko box; tobaccoe-box; tobaccoe box; tobacco-boxes; tobacco-box; tobacco boxse; tobacco and snuff boxes; tobacco & snuff boxes; tobacco & snuff box; toba' box; tob: box; tob' box; tabac boxes; tab box; bacco box]
A decorative BOX, often made of metal, to keep personal supplies of tobacco, especially a small flat box that can be carried in the POCKET. Like the SNUFF BOX, a tobacco box was seen as a suitable small gift in a variety of circumstances, as shown in [Diaries (Blundell)]. Although some were made strictly for utility, most were decorative items carried on the person as much for display as use; hence the 'Tortishell tobacco box with the kings picture on it' [Inventories (1694)] and the '1 dozen of rose worke tobacco boxes' [Inventories (1671)]. Valuations suggest that tobacco boxes could be found to suit all pockets with those of WOOD costed at 16d DOZEN or 2d½ per each, 6s the DOZEN in HORN, 10d each in COPPER but 3s per box in TORTOISE SHELL.
Apart from the personal tobacco boxes, boxes were also used in processing TOBACCO, hence entries like 'Nine Boxs for Cutting Tobacco In 2s 3d' [Inventories (1704)], 'a tob ingin boxes & screw' [Inventories (1705)], and 'A very good Engine for cutting Tobacco with a great Number of Boxes' [Newspapers (1750)]. In none of the examples in the Dictionary Archive have these boxes been labelled as 'tobacco boxes', but they might well be elsewhere.
As a box to carry tobacco: Found described as with the Kings head on, LONDON WORK, ORDINARY, Rose work COPPER, HORN, LATTEN, LEAD, LEATHER, SILVER, STEEL, TIN, TORTOISE SHELL, WOOD
Found in units of DOZEN, GROSS Found rated by the GROSS of 12 DOZEN
Quite a complex piece of equipment set in a substantial wooden frame, designed to cut TOBACCO prior to sale. One version of it is illustrated and described by Randle Holme [Holme (2000)]. Its essential parts were the TOBACCO CUTTING KNIFE, a large rectangular plate of iron positioned vertically to run up and down in its own frame, the boxes into which the tobacco was pressed and steered under the knife, a tobacco cutter's engine wheel, which helped to move a rack forward that presses the tobacco forward under the knife, and a handle which raised and lowered the knife.
Judging from Holme's remarks, the work was very heavy for the operator. His description helps to clarify the various lists of equipment found in the Dictionary Archive, such as 'A Tobacco Engine & boxes' [Inventories (1694)], 'one Engine 3 Knives 2 Doz'n & ½ of boxes 2 Doz'n old boxes 2 Standing presses' [Inventories (1720)] 'A very good Wheel Tobacco-Engine with a new Press and two Dozen Boxes; likewise a good cast Stove-plate' [Newspapers (1760)]. Randle Holme claimed that this type of tobacco engine had been introduced 'at the begining of my tyme'. Before it a much simpler device was used somewhat resembling a modern paper guillotine [Holme (2000)]. The earliest tobacco engine noted in the Dictionary Archive was already old in 1670 [Inventories (1670)].
There is only one example of a TOBACCO - HAMMER as such in the Dictionary Archive [Inventories (1665)], as well as two other instances when a processor of tobacco had a hammer not further specified [Inventories (1666)]; [Inventories (1673)]. All three instances are found in inventories from eastern England and their respective owners died within a few years of each other. The dictionaries are not helpful, and Randle Holme did not know of this TOOL. However, he did write of a 'Tobacco mill', which 'is a devise of late found out for the grinding, or rather bruseing of tobacco stalks, to make them being cut, to resemble Leafe Tobacco: euery trade hath its chate and so hath this, in selling nought for ought, or that for good tobacco, which is none at all, or else the worst of all Mundun-gasses' [Holme (2000)]. It seems at least possible that the mill replaced the hammer for this cheating practice.
The term may be no more than a variant of LEAF TOBACCO, but its occasional use in the Dictionary Archive suggests otherwise. In one example dated 1680 GREEN tobacco leaves were applied to relieve a leg ulcer [Diaries (Josselin)]. This entry confirms what is already known that tobacco continued to be grown in this country after it was made illegal to do so in an act 'for prohibiting the Planting, Setting or Sowing of Tobacco in England and Ireland.' [Acts (1660)]. The same is also suggested by Nicholas Culpeper's recipe for SNAIL WATER that included 'dried Tobacco-leaves' [Recipes (Culpeper)].
Tobacco pipe makers screw
An important component of the 'Implem'ts and Tooles for ye Art of Tobacco Pipe making' [Inventories (1723)], the pipe maker's SCREW was described by Randle Holme as 'an engine by which the Mouth of the pipe is made all at a tyme, as it were' [Holme (2000)]. No TOBACCO PIPE maker's screw as such has been noted in the Dictionary Archive, but one pipe maker possessed 'One Curricomb Screw and one Cheek Skrew' worth together 23s [Inventories (1723)]. The names denote two patterns of bowl, each of which would have been formed by its own screw. The TOBACCO pipe maker's screw, should not be confused with the TOBACCO SCREW.
Only one example has been noted in the Dictionary Archive among the stock of a TINPLATE worker [Inventories (1745)]. They were valued at 2d each. Much more common was the TOBACCO DISH, for example [Inventories (1774)] valued much the same. They probably were different terms for the same article, which is also suggested by the fact that they have not been noted together. They were probably either a shallow receptacle on which one could stand the TOBACCO PIPE and the other paraphernalia required for smoking, or one in which the tobacco was placed for guests to use. Given the very low valuation, perhaps the latter is more likely.
A device, used apparently in conjunction with the TOBACCO PRESS, to squeeze the liquor from soaked and partially fermented TOBACCO ready for cutting with a TOBACCO ENGINE. It is often listed in an abbreviated form as in 'a tob ingin boxes & screw' [Inventories (1705)], or 'one Block & Screw' [Inventories (1720)], where only the context indicates its specific use. Elsewhere it is labelled as an IRON SCREW as in 'one iron screw' [Inventories (1669)].
One of many accessories introduced to accompany TOBACCO, this was a contrivance for pressing down the tobacco in the bowl of a TOBACCO PIPE while smoking. It only appears on a few occasions in the Dictionary Archive, suggesting that it might have been a luxury item with only a limited market. This is further suggested by the high quality materials used to make tobacco stoppers, which included BONE, IVORY and SILVER.
A term applied to various articles, most of them relating to the care of the person or of APPAREL, but also applied to a piece of fabric used as a wrapper for clothes, to a TOWEL or cloth thrown over the shoulders during hair-dressing, and also to a SHAWL or a gown for dressing. Neither of these meanings appear in the Dictionary Archive where the term is mostly applied to a CLOTH or CARPET for a DRESSING TABLE, formerly often of rich material such as SILK, SATIN, VELVET or TISSUE, and skilled workmanship as in 'a toilet of clear lawn, with a scarlet lining' [Newspapers (1790)]. This is now usually called a toilet-cover. Toilets in this sense are found mainly in the bed room, as in a 'Dressing Table & Toylet' [Inventories (1735)], but also occasionally elsewhere, as in the dining room [Inventories (1723)].
The meaning became extended as a collective term used to denote the articles required or used in dressing the furniture of the toilet-table, and even to the bottles and unguents that might find a resting place there as 'Bottles for Ladies Toilets, &c.' [Tradecards (18c.)]. In this sense 'toilet' merges into TOILETRY.
Also known as a 'toilet case', the term denotes a decorative BOX in which to keep the various lotions and potions used in personal TOILET, as in 'A great variety of Toilet Boxes, with Essences & Pomatums' [Tradecards (1794)]. As with all these personal goods, choice was of the essense, and a retailer who stocked them at all would have a variety and would advertise them widely.
A term not found in the Dictionary Archive, and it only appears in the OED in the second half of the nineteenth century. However, it is a useful label to cover all the articles relating to the TOILET and personal cleanliness, mainly of women, but to a lesser extent men also.
BALSAM OF TOLU was a recognized specific against conditions of the lungs, and is found in various QUACK MEDICINES including BALSAM OF HONEY and PECTORAL OF TOLU. Tolu lozenges were widely advertised during the eighteenth century by their manufacturer Thomas GREENOUGH, who patented several of his products, though not this one, possibly because there were already other makers in the field. Greenough claimed they were 'by far the pleasantest and most effectual remedy of the kind, in all tickling coughs', and, more contentiously, that they gave 'great Relief in incipient Consumptions' [Newspapers (1761)]. According to Frederick Accum, Tolu lozenges were often adulterated with products like PIPE CLAY [Accum (1820)].