History Of Tobacco

Top of Page
 
  Huron Indian myth has it that in ancient times, when the land was barren and the people were starving, the Great Spirit sent forth a woman to save humanity. As she traveled over the world, everywhere her right hand touched the soil, there grew potatoes. And everywhere her left hand touched the soil, there grew corn. And when the world was rich and fertile, she sat down and rested. When she arose, there grew tobacco . . .  
 
  • Prehistory: Although small amounts of nicotine may be found in some Old World plants, including belladonna and Nicotiana africana, and nicotine metabolites have been found in human remains and pipes in the Near East and Africa, there is no indication of habitual tobacco use in the Ancient world, on any continent save the Americas.
  • The sacred origin of tobacco and the first pipe (Schoolcraft)

  • c. 6000 BCE: Experts believe the tobacco plant, as we know it today, begins growing in the Americas.
  • c.1 BCE: Experts believe American inhabitants have begun finding ways to use tobacco, including smoking (in a number of variations), chewing and in (probably hallucinogenic) enemas.
  • c. 1 CE: Tobacco was "nearly everywhere" in the Americas. (American Heritage Book of Indians, p.41).
  • 600-1000 CE: UAXACTUN, GUATEMALA. First pictorial record of smoking: A pottery vessel found here dates from before the 11th century. On it a Maya is depicted smoking a roll of tobacco leaves tied with a string. The Mayan term for smoking was sik'ar
Introduction:
  • 1492-10-12: Columbus Discovers Tobacco; "Certain Dried Leaves" Are Received as Gifts, and Thrown Away.

    On this bright morning Columbus and his men set foot on the New World for the first time, landing on the beach of San Salvador Island or Samana Cay in the Bahamas, or Gran Turk Island. The indigenous Arawaks, possibly thinking the strange visitors divine, offer gifts. Columbus wrote in his journal, the natives brought fruit, wooden spears, and certain dried leaves which gave off a distinct fragrance. As each item seemed much-prized by the natives; Columbus accepted the gifts and ordered them brought back to the ship. The fruit was eaten; the pungent "dried leaves" were thrown away.
  • 1492-11: Jerez and Torres Discover Smoking; Jerez Becomes First European Smoker

    Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres, in Cuba searching for the Khan of Cathay (China), are credited with first observing smoking. They reported that the natives wrapped dried tobacco leaves in palm or maize "in the manner of a musket formed of paper." After lighting one end, they commenced "drinking" the smoke through the other. Jerez became a confirmed smoker, and is thought to be the first outside of the Americas. He brought the habit back to his hometown, but the smoke billowing from his mouth and nose so frightened his neighbors he was imprisoned by the holy inquisitors for 7 years. By the time he was released, smoking was a Spanish craze.
  • 1497: Robert Pane, who accompanied Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1493, writes the first report of native tobacco use to appear in Europe.
  • 1518: MEXICO: JUAN DE GRIJALVA lands in Yucatan, observes cigarette smoking by natives (ATS)
  • 1519: MEXICO: CORTEZ conquers AZTEC capitol, finds Mexican natives smoking perfumed reed cigarettes.(ATS)
  • 1530: MEXICO: BERNARDINO DE SAHAGUN, missionary in Mexico, distinguishes between sweet commercial tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) and coarse Nicotiana rustica.(ATS)
  • 1531: SANTO DOMINGO: European cultivation of tobacco begins
  • 1534: CUBA, SANTO DOMINGO: "Tall tobacco"--sweet, broadleaved Nicotiana tabacum--is transplanted from Central American mainland to Cuba and Santo Domingo.(ATS)
  • 1548: BRAZIL: Portuguese cultivate tobacco for commercial export.
  • 1554: ANTWERP: 'Cruydeboeck' presents first illustration of tobacco. (LB)
  • 1535: CANADA: Jacques Cartier encounters natives on the island of Montreal who use tobacco.
  • 1556: FRANCE: Tobacco is introduced. The revolutionary monk Andre Thevet of Angouleme claims he was the first to transplant Nicotiana tabacum from Brazil; many dispute this. In his writings he describes tobacco as a creature comfort. (ATS)
  • 1558: SPAIN: Tobacco is introduced by Francisco Fernandes, a physician who had been sent by Philip II. of Spain to investigate the products of Mexico. (Ency. Brit.)
  • 1558: PORTUGAL: Tobacco is introduced.
  • 1560: PORTUGAL, FRANCE: Jean Nicot de Villemain, France's ambassador to Portugal, writes of tobacco's medicinal properties, describing it as a panacea. Nicot sends rustica plants to French court.
  • 1564 or 1565: ENGLAND: Tobacco is introduced by Sir John Hawkins and/or his crew. For the next twenty years in England, tobacco is used cheifly by sailors, including those employed by Sir Francis Drake.
  • 1561: FRANCE: Nicot sends snuff to Catherine de Medici, Queen of France, to treat her son Francis II's migraine headaches. She later decrees tobacco be termed Herba Regina (There is confusion in my sources: some claim it cured Catherine's own headaches (by making her sneeze); some claim it cured Marie de Medici's headaches.)
  • 1568: FRANCE: Andre Thevet writes the first description of tobacco use. In Brazil, he wrote, the people smoke it and it cleans the "superfluous humours of the brain". Thevet smoked it himself. (LB)
  • 1570: Claimed first botanical book on tobacco written by Pena and Lobel of London.(TSW)
  • 1571: GERMANY: MEDICINE: Dr. Michael Bernhard Valentini's Polychresta Exotica (Exotic Remedies) describes numerous different types of clysters, or enemas. The tobacco smoke clyster was said to be good for the treatment of colic, nephritis, hysteria, hernia, and dysentery.
  • 1571: SPAIN: MEDICINE: Monardes, a doctor in Seville, reports on the latest craze among Spanish doctors--the wonders of the tobacco plant, which herbalists are growing all over Spain. Monardes lists 36 maladies tobacco cures.
  • 1571:BOOKS: Jos de Acosta, a Spanish Jesuit missionary is sent to Peru; records some of the earliest and most vivid descriptions of Native South American life and tobacco use. ( De natura novi orbis libri duo (Salamanca, 1588-1589)
  • 1573: ENGLAND: Sir Francis Drake returns from Americas with 'Nicotina tobacum'. (LB)
  • 1575: MEXICO: LEGISLATION: Roman Catholic Church passes a law against smoking in any place of worship in the Spanish Colonies
  • 1577: ENGLAND: MEDICINE: Frampton translates Monardes into English. European doctors look for new cures--tobacco is recommended for toothache, falling fingernails, worms, halitosis, lockjaw & cancer
  • 1580: CUBA: European cultivation of tobacco begins
  • 1580: TURKEY: Tobacco arrives (AHS)
  • 1580: POLAND: Tobacco arrives (AHS)
  • 1584-03: ENGLAND: Queen Elizabeth grants Mr. Walter Raleigh a charter for establishing a settlement in America.
 
  • 1585: ENGLAND: Sir Francis Drake introduces smoking to Sir Walter Raleigh (BD)
  • 1586: Ralph Lane, first governor of Virginia, teaches Sir Walter Raleigh to smoke the long-stemmed clay pipe Lane is credited with inventing (BD).(TSW)
  • 1586: GERMANY: 'De plantis epitome utilissima' offers one of first cautions to use of tobacco, calling it a "violent herb". (LB)
  • 1586: ENGLAND: Tobacco Arrives in English Society. (BD)

  In July 1586, some of the Virginia colonists returned to England and disembarked at Plymouth smoking tobacco from pipes, which caused a sensation. William Camden (1551-1623) a contemporary witness, reports that "These men who were thus brought back were the first that I know of that brought into England that Indian plant which they call Tabacca and Nicotia, or Tobacco" Tobacco in the Elizabethan age was known as "sotweed."
 
  • 1587: ANTWERP: First published work totally on tobacco, 'De herbe panacea', with numerous recipies and claims of cures. (LB)
  • 1588: Hariot writes about tobacco in Virginia

    There is an herb called uppowoc, which sows itself. In the West Indies it has several names, according to the different places where it grows and is used, but the Spaniards generally call it tobacco. Its leaves are dried, made into powder, and then smoked by being sucked through clay pipes into the stomach and head. The fumes purge superfluous phlegm and gross humors from the body by opening all the pores and passages. Thus its use not only preserves the body, but if there are any obstructions it breaks them up. By this means the natives keep in excellent health, without many of the grievous diseases which often afflict us in England.

    This uppowoc is so highly valued by them that they think their gods are delighted with it. Sometimes they make holy fires and cast the powder into them as a sacrifice. If there is a storm on the waters, they throw it up into the air and into the water to pacify their gods. Also, when they set up a new weir for fish, they pour uppowoc into it. And if they escape from danger, they also throw the powder up into the air. This is alwavs done with strange gestures and stamping, sometimes dancing, clapping of hands, holding hands up, and staring up into the heavens. During this performance they chatter strange words and utter meaningless noises.

    While we were there we used to suck in the smoke as they did, and now that we are back in England we still do so. We have found many rare and wonderful proofs of the uppowoc's virtues, which would themselves require a volume to relate. There is sufficient evidence in the fact that it is used by so many men and women of great calling, as well as by some learned physicians.


    --Thomas Hariot, A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, directed to the investors, farmers, and well-wishers of the project of colonizing and planting there. Imprinted at London in 1588. Hariot was part of a group sent by Sir Walter Raleigh to establish the first English colony in the New World. He spent a year on Roanoke Island, 1585-1586.
 
  • 1590: BOOKS: Jos de Acosta 's Historia natural y moral de las Indias (Seville, 1590) describes the native use of tobacco in detail.
  • 1590: LITERATURE: Spenser's Fairie Queen: earliest poetical allusion to tobacco in English literature. (Book III, Canto VI, 32).

    Into the woods thenceforth in haste shee went,
    To seeke for hearties that mote him remedy;
    For she of hearties had great intendiment,
    Taught of the Nymphe which from her infancy
    Her nourced had in trew nobility:
    There, whether yet divine Tobacco were,
    Or Panachea, or Polygony,
    She fownd, and brought it to her patient deare
    Who al this while lay bleding out his hart-blood scare.


  • 1595: ENGLAND: BOOKS: Tabacco, the first book in the English language devoted to the subject of tobacco, is published
 
  The first book in the English language devoted to the subject of tobacco was anonymously published in 1595, by Anthony Chute. It has the simple title "Tabacco," and contains an illustration of an Englishman smoking a clay pipe. In this little work for laymen, the author earnestly urged smokers not to abuse the kindly weed, upheld its medicinal uses, and suggested that physicians were trying to keep smoking a secret among themselves. The reason was, he said, that a moderate use of the pipe was of such value in preserving health that it was likely to make physicians unnecessary!
 
  • 1595 (approx.): Matoaka is born to Chief Powhatan. She is given the nickname Pocahontas--"Frisky," "Playful One" or "Mischief"
  • 1596: LITERATURE: Ben Jonson's Every Man in His Humor is acted on the 25th of November, 1596, and printed in 1601. In Act III, Scene 2, Bobadilla (pro) and Cob (con) argue about tobacco. (BD)



    The above early time-line is reprinted with permission. The complete time-line, up through the present, is located at www.tobacco.org. Copyright 2000, Gene Borio, Tobacco BBS.