Rolling, Chewing and Dipping

In our day of anti-smoking and tobacco control laws, it is hard to imagine an earlier day when virtually every male adult and many female adults used tobacco in some form. Before the middle of the 20th Century, smoking, chewing and dipping were very common at Burke.

Pre-made cigarettes were not readily available until after World War II, and even then they were more expensive than "rolling your own". Many men (few women smoked), including the author's grandfather Frank Johnson, bought Prince Albert bulk tobacco in the can and Riz-La cigarette papers. He would hold the the paper in his finger, making a trough lengthwise, flip open the tobacco can, and pour a row of tobacco from one end of the paper to the other. He would then lick one edge of the paper and fold it over so that it would adhere to the other edge. The result was a misshapen but smokable cigarette. At other times he would smoke the Prince Albert in his pipe.

Young boys could not easily obtain cigarettes as they can now, but they made do by pretending to smoke using vines found in the woods. Dried grape vines were hollow and could be lighted, making it possible to puff them like a cigarette. Another vine reputed to be popular with youthful pretend smokers was the crossvine.

Others used tobacco orally. Many men also chewed tobacco, while women tended to dip snuff. No one in the author's immediate family chewed tobacco, but the author's great grandmother, Emma Samford, was a snuff dipper. She usually used Levi Garrett, which in later years came in glass containers that could be reused as drinking glasses. Earlier it came in brown bottles, which had several raised dots on the bottom. Some thought these dots denoted something about the snuff and would buy only bottles with the preferred number ot dots.

Both chewing and dipping were nasty habits, which required that the user spit the tobacco juice every so often. Stores and public buildings were equipped with spittoons to keep the floor relatively clean.


  1. 1900 Census, Angelina County, Texas, Precinct 4
  2. History of Angelina County
  3. Elroy Murrah, Personal Recollections
  4. M. Lee Murrah, Personal Recollections