Tobacco Timeline

Chapter 2

The Sixteenth Century--Sailors Spread the Seeds

"All along the sea routes ... wherever they had trading posts, the Portuguese began the limited planting of tobacco. Before the end of the sixteenth century they had developed these small farms to a point where they could be assured of enough tobacco to meet their personal needs, for gifts, and for barter. By the beginning of the seventeenth century these farms had, in many places, become plantations, often under native control."

-- Jerome Edmund Brooks, "The Mighty Leaf; Tobacco through the Centuries." Boston, Little, Brown (1952)

JAPAN: Dutch and Portuguese trading vessels calling at ports in Nagasaki and Kagoshima introduce tobacco. It is spread through the country over the ensuing decades, often by Buddhist monks, who use tobacco seeds to pay for lodging along the routes of their pilgrimages.

  • 1518: MEXICO: JUAN DE GRIJALVA lands in Yucatan, observes cigarette smoking by natives (ATS)
  • 1518: SPAIN: Fernando Cortez brings tobacco to Spain, at the request of Ramon Pane
  • 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)
  • 1535: CANADA: Jacques Cartier encounters natives on the island of Montreal who use tobacco.

  • 1548: BRAZIL: Portuguese cultivate tobacco for commercial export.

  • 1554: ANTWERP: 'Cruydeboeck' presents first illustration of tobacco. (LB)
  • 1555:Franciscan Friar Andr Thevet of Angouleme reports on Brazil's Tupinamba Indians' use of Petun.
  • 1556: FRANCE: Tobacco is introduced. Revolutionary monk Thevet 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: PORTUGAL: Tobacco is introduced.
  • 1559: SPAIN: Tobacco is introduced by Francisco Hernandez de Toledo, Philippe II. of Spain's personal physician, who had been sent the year before to investigate the products of Mexico. The seeds Hernandez brings back are at first used only to grow ornamental plants in court.

  • 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.
  • 1561: FRANCE: Nicot sends snuff to Catherine de Medici, the Queen Mother of France, to treat her son Francis II's migraine headaches. She later decrees tobacco be termed Herba Regina (There is confusion in sources: some claim it cured Catherine's own headaches (by making her sneeze))
  • 1564 or 1565: ENGLAND: Tobacco is introduced into England by Sir John Hawkins and/or his crew. Tobacco is used cheifly by sailors, including those employed by Sir Francis Drake, until the 1580s. (Chroniclers of the day took little note of the customs of sailors. Crews under the command of less famous captains than Hawkins would be given even less notice. But Spanish and Portuguese sailors spread the practice around the world--probably first to fellow sailors at port cities. There is no reason to suppose Hawkins' crew particularly advanced in comparison to those on other English ships. In sum, there could well have been a small underground of seafaring tobacco users in England for decades before officialdom took notice. Hawkins and his crew are usually given the credit, but in reality, take this with a grain of sea-salt.)
  • 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 the 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. 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." (BD)
  • 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 in A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia

  • 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).
  • 1590: BOOKS: Richard Hakluyt, who accompanied Sir Walter Raleigh on his Roanoke expedition, publishes his comprehensive anthology: The Principall Navigations. Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation, Made by Sea or Overland to the Most Remote and Farthest Distant Quarters of the Earth at Any Time within the Compasse of these 1500 Years.
  • 1592-98: KOREA: Hideyoshi Invasion from Japan. Japan, which has maintained contact with Portuguese merchants, introduce the practice of smoking to Korea.
  • 1595: ENGLAND: BOOKS: Tabacco, the first book in the English language devoted to the subject of tobacco, is published
  • 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)

    Next Chapter: The Seventeenth Century--"The Great Age of the Pipe"


    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:

  • 2001 Gene Borio, Tobacco BBS (212-982-4645). WebPage: Tobacco BBS material may be reprinted in any non-commercial venue if accompanied by this credit

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