IN THE BEGINNING . . .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 . . .
Copyright 1993-2005 Gene Borio
SOURCES: Thanks to tobacco researcher Larry Breed (LB) for his contributions. He recently found a little tome called "This Smoking World" (1927), and shared some of its events (TSW). I am also beginning to incorporate events referenced in Richard Kluger's monumental Ashes to Ashes (RK), The American Tobacco Story (ATS), Corti's "A History of Smoking (1931), Elizabeth Whelan's A Smoking Gun, and Susan Wagner's Cigarette Country (1971). Another important source is Bill Drake's wonderful The European Experience With Native American Tobacco (BD). Many will be interested in the 1989 Surgeon General report segment, "ADVANCES IN KNOWLEDGE OF THE HEALTH CONSEQUENCES OF SMOKING" (PDF, 93 pp).
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 (by the Peruvian Aguaruna aboriginals). c. 1 CE: Tobacco was "nearly everywhere" in the Americas. (American Heritage Book of Indians, p.41). 470-630 CE: Between 470 and 630 A.D. the Mayas began to scatter, some moving as far as the Mississippi Valley. The Toltecs, who created the mighty Aztec Empire, borrowed the smoking custom from the Mayas who remained behind. Two castes of smokers emerged among them. Those in the Court of Montezuma, who mingled tobacco with the resin of other leaves and smoked pipes with great ceremony after their evening meal; and the lesser Indians, who rolled tobacco leaves together to form a crude cigar. The Mayas who settled in the Mississippi Valley spread their custom to the neighboring tribes. The latter adapted tobacco smoking to their own religion, believing that their god, the almighty Manitou, revealed himself in the rising smoke. And, as in Central America, a complex system of religious and political rites was developed around tobacco. (Imperial Tobacco Canada, Tobacco History) 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
The Chiapas Gift, or The Indians' Revenge?
Columbus' sailors find Arawak and Taino Indians smoking tobacco. Some take up the habit and begin to spread it worldwide.
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.
1492-10-15: Columbus Mentions Tobacco. "We found a man in a canoe going from Santa Maria to Fernandia. He had with him some dried leaves which are in high value among them, for a quantity of it was brought to me at San Salvador" -- Christopher Columbus' Journal
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.
1493: Ramon Pane, a monk who accompanied Columbus on his second voyage, gave lengthy descriptions about the custom of taking snuff. He also described how the Indians inhaled smoke through a Y-shaped tube. Pane is usually credited with being the first man to introduce tobacco to Europe.
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, "De Insularium Ribitus." 1498: Columbus visits Trinidad and Tobago, naming the latter after the native tobacco pipe. 1499: Amerigo Vespucci noticed that the American Indians had a curious habit of chewing green leaves mixed with a white powder. They carried two gourds around their necks -- one filled with leaves, the other with powder. First, they put leaves in their mouths. Then, after dampening a small stick with saliva, they dipped it in the powder and mixed the adhering powder with the leaves in their mouths, making a kind of chewing tobacco. (Imperial Tobacco Canada, http://www.imperialtobaccocanada.com/e/world/history/index.html)
Next Chapter: The Sixteenth Century--Sailors Spread the Seeds
Chapter 1: Discovery
Chapter 2: The Sixteenth Century--Sailors Spread the Seeds
Chapter 3: The Seventeenth Century--"The Great Age of the Pipe"
Chapter 4: The Eighteenth Century--Snuff Holds Sway
Chapter 5: The Nineteenth Century--The Age of the Cigar
Chapter 6: The Twentieth Century, 1900-1950--The Rise of the Cigarette
Chapter 7: The Twentieth Century, 1950-1999--The Battle is Joined
Chapter 8: The New Millennium
This document's original URL is: http://www.tobacco.org/resources/history/Tobacco_History.html
©2001 Gene Borio, Tobacco BBS (212-982-4645). WebPage: http://www.tobacco.org).Original Tobacco BBS material may be reprinted in any non-commercial venue if accompanied by this credit