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Diploma from Tobacco Exposition, 1889


Tobacco has been a major part of Virginia commerce for three and a half centuries. The brands of early tobacco art usually took the form of the planters' brand that makers used to distinguish their crop. Most planters used a form of their initials to distinguish their crop, and these became advertising marks as early as 1625. Eventually, the labels displayed designs that were more artistic, including pictures of slaves and Indian figures to portray the romantic origins of tobacco.

By 1890, there were nearly 120 tobacco factories in Richmond alone, which created fierce competition. Advances in the production of lithographs made the use of brightly colored images in advertising more commonplace and tobacco took advantage of this means of reaching out to consumers. Advertising became paramount to the success of tobacco companies who began to create new and different ways to advertise. Trade cards, calendars, fans, matchbooks, and trays became popular throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This image is a facsimile of the diploma (what today would be termed an award) given to Wm Cameron & Bro. for the best exhibit of dark manufactured tobacco at the Virginia Agricultural, Mechanical and Tobacco Exposition of 1888.

See also:
Alexander Cameron
William Cameron

Citation: Virginia State Agricultural and Mechanical Society. This is our Latest and Greatest Triumph: from the World's Greatest Tobacco Exposition. 1889, Broadside 1889 .T44 BOX, Special Collections, Library of Virginia


Social Studies: VUS.1 (a,d), VUS.3, USI.1
Art: 4.18, 4.19,5.18, 5.19
English 11.2

Suggested Questions

Analyze: What can you learn from this diploma? What were the effects of tobacco on the post–Civil War economy? How effective do you think it was a form of advertising?

Current Connections: Compare and contrast current tobacco advertising with advertising from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


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