Thursday, May 27

The Earlier History of Snuff

'In 1561 Jean Nicot, the French ambassador in Lisbon, Portugal, sent snuff to Catherine de' Medici to treat her son's persistent migraines. Her belief in its curative properties helped to popularize snuff among the elite.
By the 1600s some started to object to snuff being taken. Pope Urban VIII threatened to excommunicate snufftakers, and in Russia in 1643, Tsar Michael set the punishment of removal of the nose for snuff use. However, elsewhere use persisted; King Louis XIII of France was a devout snufftaker, and by 1638, snuff use had been reported to be spreading in China.
By the 1700s, snuff had become the tobacco product of choice among the elite, prominent users including Napoleon, King George III's wife Queen Charlotte, and Pope Benedict XIII. The taking of snuff helped to distinguish the elite members of society from the common populace, which generally smoked its tobacco. It is also during the 1700s that the first tobacco warnings were published, among these, John Hill, an English doctor warned of the overuse of snuff, causing vulnerability to nasal cancers. Snuff's image as an aristocratic luxury attracted the first U.S. federal tax on tobacco, created in 1794.
In Eighteenth-Century Britain, the Gentlewoman's Magazine advised readers with ailing sight to use the correct type of Portuguese snuff, "whereby many eminent people had cured themselves so that they could read without spectacles after having used them for many years."
The first "industrial park"in America, in North Brunswick, New Jersey appeared as early as 1750 as water power from the Lawrence Brook was harnessed to provide energy for the operation of a variety of mills along its banks. Most notable among these was the Parsons Snuff Mill, forerunner of the George W. Helme Company's General Cigar and Tobacco Company, which continued the manufacture of tobacco products in Helmetta until a few years ago.
Helmetta, once a factory town, the tiny borough is best known for its namesake, the Helme Tobacco Company. The town was left without a landmark when operations at the snuff plant closed in 1993.
In 1880, George W. Helme, a Major General in the Confederate Army, built the snuff mill, and eight years later led a secession from East Brunswick. He named the small borough for his daughter, Etta. 

When he was a boy visiting his grandmother's house in Helmetta, Andrew Tancredi recalls, the snuff mill across the street made the whole town smell sweet. "The flavor going into the tobacco," he said, "was always in the air." . .
By 1925, the Helme Snuff Mill in Helmetta claimed to be the world's largest producer of snuff — powdered tobacco that was snorted or applied to the gums — and snuff-related products, like chewing tobacco. By 1934, the mill employed 400 people, most of them residents of Helmetta.
Swisher International, a large tobacco company based in West Virginia, later took over the plant and ran it successfully until 1993. Then Swisher moved all its operations south and shut down the old factory in Helmetta, vacating 16 brick and frame buildings on 31 acres — smack at the middle of Main Street. Left behind, too, were 1,200 residents, virtually all of whom had had connections with the mill."

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