The History of the Cigarette

The History of the Cigarette

Tobacco Connections

What do James Albert Bonsack and “Buck Duke (James Buchanan Duke) and Edgar Cayce have in common?  Hopkinsville, KY and tobacco.  James Albert Bonsack won the contest “to build a machine that would wrap tobacco into cigarettes.  The present form of tobacco was plugs, snuff, dip and chew.  It was a luxury to be able to afford a personally made wrapped cigarette.   In 1880 James Albert won the contest.  In 1890 he sold the patent to James Buchanan Duke.   Both are known to be the inventors of the modern-day cigarette.  Bonsack’s machine could make 120,000 cigarettes a day vs the handmade kind of only 210/day. Bonsack was paid seventy-five thousand dollars by a subsidiary company, Allen and Ginter of Richmond, VA.

james albert Bonsack
The Inventor of the Cigarette Machine

Little is known about James Albert Bonsack.  He was born in a small town in Roanoke County, VA.  He died a rich man and is buried in West Laurel Hills Cemetery in Montgomery County Pennsylvania.His grave is simple.  He is not listed as a famous grave as are David Hayes Agnew, MD the surgeon of the Union Army and President Garfield. Other famous neighbors in Bonsack’s resting place are William a Breyer, the founder of Breyer’s ice cream who died of smallpox.  Another important person listed in the West Laurel Hills Graveyard is John Thompson Dorrane, the inventor of condensed soup for Campbells Soup.    His grave is not noticeable, not large and has no plague or engrave words “The inventor of the cigarette rolling machine.”

james Buchanan DukeThe first organized attack occurred at Trenton when a band of armed and masked men burned the tobacco warehouse and factory of an independent dealer who had bought non-association tobacco. A little later they appeared at Elkton and dynamited the warehouse there.In 1904 Buck Duke married Lillian Fletcher McCready, the same year as the The Black Patch Tobacco Wars started.  He divorced her in 1907, married again and then in 1907.  The American Tobacco Association “lost the war” due to 35,000 farmers who refused to raise tobacco.Buck Duke is known to be one of the founders of Duke University.  His family is famous for Duke Electric Power Company in North Carolina.

He and James Bonsack are the “Cigarette dealers of death.”  More can be found about James Albert Bonsack and cancer.  James Duke is known for wealth, education and business.

Another investor into Duke ‘s American Tobacco Company was Oliver H. Payne of Standard Oil Company.  At the same time there were Night Riders in Hopkinsville, Ky.  The fisherman of Reelfoot Lake was the Night Riders of Reelfoot Lake. Probably no event in the region’s history, apart from the Civil War, polarized the population of Obion County as did the Night Rider episodes of 1908. Nearly a century later, public opinion still varies greatly regarding the character and motivation of the men and women involved in the Reelfoot violence. For seven months in 1908, masked horsemen rode roughshod over a portion of Obion County and imposed their brand of justice with whip, arson, and shotgun. But if the riders are judged guilty of excesses, their adversary, the West Tennessee Land Company, with its example of callous greed, must share in that guilt. Unfortunately, when the State of Tennessee intervened in the matter, it too showed scarcely more restraint than the other participants in the events.Night riders

Simply stated, the Night Rider episode was a dispute over title to Reelfoot Lake and the surrounding land. Created by the cataclysmic forces of the 1811-12 earthquake, the lake and its wildlife supplemented the diets and incomes of subsistence farmers in the area. Although claims on the land existed prior to the earthquake, the local population regarded the lake as public domain. When the West Tennessee Land Company quietly purchased old claims and made plans to drain at least part of the lake and convert it to cotton production, the region’s residents reacted violently.

On the night of October 19, 1908, after several weeks of increasingly violent activities, events moved swiftly to a tragic stage. Masked riders kidnapped Tennessee Land Company officers R. Z. Taylor and Quinton Rankin from Ward’s Hotel in Walnut Log. Rankin was murdered, but Taylor escaped into the swamp and was presumed dead. He survived by hiding under a cypress log and was found more than twenty-four hours later, wandering and disoriented.

Governor Malcolm Patterson personally took charge of matters and arrived in the lake region with the Tennessee National Guard. By the end of October, nearly one hundred suspects were incarcerated in a makeshift camp set up by the Guard. The suspects received very harsh treatment while in the custody of the state, and two died while awaiting trial. Eventually, six were found guilty in the murder of Quinton Rankin and sentenced to death. The Tennessee Supreme Court overturned their convictions in 1909.

Public opinion favored the plight of the Reelfoot Lake people. Consequently, the state took ownership of the lake from private ownership.

Oliver Hazard Payne was born in 1838 in Ohio.  He died in NY without ever having been married or having children.  He was the organizer of the American Tobacco Trust, he organized US Steel Company and the Standard Oil Company.  He served in the Civil War as a Colonel. His resume would state that he was a US Senator, a US Congressman.

The connections aren’t distant.  You can make a cigarette machine, but nobody will ever know your name.  You can form a business and get elected.   Even Edgar Cayce, the psychic from Hopkinsville might have been able to predict our future.cigarette-dark-smoke-background-vector-11699420 (1)


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