By the end of the 16th century pipe smoking was
a nationwide habit and, in this age of voyages of
discovery, the smoking habit traveled around the
world. In a short space of time men of all colour
and creeds were smoking tobacco, and craftsmen
were making pipes, some of great beauty, from a
diverse range of materials.
That smoking developed in this country more
rapidly than in any other was largely attributable
to Sir Walter Raleighıs influence and example.
The apothecaries who first sold tobacco had to
increase their stock to meet growing demand, and
around 1600 special tobacconists shops began to flourish with tobacco also being sold at
public houses, grocers, chandlers, drapers and even goldsmiths.
A King in Opposition
Tobacco was fast becoming an important commodity but even then it had powerful opponents. The smoking habit was denounced by the clergy, and the literary world contributed to this in satire and lampoon. The climax was reached in 1604 when King James I published his famous "Counterblaste to Tobacco" in an effort to stop smoking, which he personally disliked.
He also saw it as an opportunity to discredit Raleigh whom he despised. The import duty was increased from the modest 2d of Elizabethan times to 6/10d per lb. In France, Louis XIII prohibited the sale of tobacco except where medically prescribed, and in some Eastern nations smoking was punished by torture and death.
Meanwhile English farmers continued the large scale cultivation of tobacco. James, therefore, prohibited local cultivation of the plant on the grounds that it would reduce the growing or food, but in spite of this farmers carried on planting and harvesting their crops.
James I, King of England (British, 15661625)
A Counterblaste to Tobacco
London: Robert Barker, 1604
Arents Tobacco Collection
(See book .jpg in file)
In 1614 King James, finding himself once again in
financial difficulties, decided to take the importance of
tobacco into his own hands and granted two traders the
sole power to import tobacco, on the condition that they
paid him £3,500 for the first year and £7,000 every
year thereafter for ten years.
In 1624 James decreed that imported tobacco should
be landed at the port of London. Traders at Bristol and
the other ports resorted to smuggling on a grand scale
and during the years that followed considerable duty
was lost. In 1638 the Government changed their minds
and allowed the landing of tobacco at Bristol, Plymouth,
Dartmouth and Southampton.
In the meantime, despite the various statutes which had been introduced, growers in
England continued to ignore the law. On several occasions troops were ordered to burn the
tobacco fields in Gloucestershire, the main centre of cultivation. By the end of the century,
however, local production had virtually ceased because of better quality and cheapness of
Virginian tobacco which smokers preferred.
One possible reason for the continuance of the habit in the
face of such opposition was the reputed power of tobacco to
combat outbreaks of plague which periodically attacked
Europe at that time. It is said that during the Great Plague of
1665 the boys at Eton were requested to smoke in school
every morning, under the supervision of a master, and were
soundly whipped if they failed to do so.
Eventually rulers around the world discovered, like King
James, that the revenue to be obtained by the state from
tobacco was more important than the alleged physical or
mental damage to their subjects.
By the early 1700ıs the use of tobacco had attained a
substantial degree of popularity. It was estimated that over a
period of seven years from 1702 to 1709 the aggregate
consumption in England and Wales was 11,260,659 pounds a
year, or just over two pounds per head of the population.
It is surprising therefore that the initiative for the proper
manufacturing was not seized by the people wholly concerned
with tobacco. Instead it seems to have been taken up by
grocers, such as Stephen Mitchell & Son, E. & W. Anstie Ltd of
Devizes, and Franklyn, Davey & Co of Bristol (wine and
The Highlander has a romantic history. In 1720 Jacobite conspirators met secretly at David Wishartıs snuff in shop in Coventry Street, London. The meeting place was signposted clearly by the tall wooden figure of Highlander in trews and doublet, with a targe on his arm and a claymore by his side.
Then came the rebellion of 1745, when real Highlanders in their outlandish dress were seen as far south as Derby, and also the retreat when Prince Charlesıs supporters had to flee from London for their lives. However they left behind them a reminder of the ill-fated uprising the wooden figure of the Highlander which became the traditional sign of the snuff merchant. It is also worth noting that these various trade signs were also used on early "tobacco papers" in which purchased tobacco was wrapped. They also served as labels or trade cards on packages.