1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Smoking in the 18th-century.

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Link the Writer, Jul 16, 2014.

    Long story short: One of my main characters is a smoker, he's addicted to smoking.

    What was smoking like back then? I assume they didn't use the cigars/cigarettes that we have today. Were the risks inherited from smoking just as they are today, or were they something else? How would he light up his pipe?

    During the course of the story, one of his arcs is trying to drop the smoking when he hears how it affected someone he cared about and doesn't wish to meet the same fate. How should I show it in a way that it's realistic?

    Thanks.
     
  2. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Well he wouldn't have had any manufactured cigarettes, they don't exist until 1910. What he definitely would have is a tobacco pouch, leather, tied with a cord or (around the turn of the century) a zipper. He would definitely have a tobacco pouch if he smoked either cigarettes or a pipe.

    No if he has a pipe it's no big deal. He packs the pipe and lights it with a striking match (in stores around 1830). The method for packing the pipe is very old. He first fills it with tobacco and doesn't tamp it down at all. He then adds another pinch and tamps it lightly. Then he adds a last pinch and just jams it in there. It's called the "three step" method. Packing the pipe this way allows him to draw air through it with no resistance, which is important.

    When he lights the pipe he brushes the match over the tobacco and only the strings are lit. He draws on that until it goes out. Then he tamps it with a tamper (fig. 1)[​IMG]
    He runs another match over the tamped tobacco until all the flakes are lit, this time around 50% of them catch on the flame. He draws on that until it goes out. Tamping and lighting again, this time the bowl fills with red coals as about 90-100% of the tobacco at the top of the bowl has lit.

    He takes smooth sips, never inhaling, a bit like sucking on a soda straw. The bowl of the pipe is going to gradually get hot, and this is important. If the tobacco is too dry, or too tightly packed the bowl will get too hot. The hotter it gets the more likely it is to crack. The best way to tell a pipe is too hot is if you can hold it tightly for 6 seconds or more. If it's too hot to hold like that the pipe will need to cool. He'll stop smoking it and maybe set it down somewhere to go out. When he re-lights the pipe he'll tamp it again, and this time the tamper will sink into a centimeter or so of fine ash before it gets stopped by the tobacco.

    When he's finished with the pipe he'll knock out the ash on something soft, like a piece of cork or the heal of his boot. When he does this he holds the bowl of the pipe not the stem. He cleans out the leftover tobacco (called "dottle") and checks to make sure the airflow is still good. If it's not he might pull the stem out of its shank and clean it with a pipe cleaner. Didn't you always wonder what those were for?

    EDIT: Smoking a pipe is constant battle between keeping the cherry lit and preventing it from getting to hot. This mean the pipe is almost always in your mouth and talking can push air back up the pipe where it will send little grains of ash poofing everywhere. Smoking a pipe is a quiet affair, as opposed to cigarettes.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2014
  3. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    If he rolls and lights cigarettes that's very different. It's also faster, with a pipe you've got a good 45 minutes of smoking at least, but a cigarette takes 15 minutes or less.

    Your guy still has a tobacco pouch, but he also has a collection of rolling papers. (fig. 2)
    [​IMG]
    With the paper cupped at the fold he'll sprinkle a little in a line, then roll the paper between his fingers, like he's about to fold it and he's just matching the edges. He ads a little more and rolls it again, and keeps doing this until the roll is about the diameter of a pencil.

    Then he licks the edge of one side of the paper and rolls it into a cylinder. He can use a striking match to light it.

    Depending on his class he might have a cigarette case, where he can store a dozen or more pre-rolled cigarettes. He might have a holder (like The Penguin) which will enable him to smoke the cigarette down to the ashes.

    Because "roll your own" cigarettes don't have filters the last couple of centimeters are an exercise in choice. The smoker chooses to either burn his fingers or stop smoking. Usually this means getting as close to the cherry as he possibly can.

    If your character is extremely disgusting he may save the end of the cigarette and put it back into his pouch cut open and extract the tobacco that remains. Because the tar of all the cigarette has been drawn through these remaining bits, they are blackened and sticky, and offer your lungs a thorough coating.
     
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  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I read a book with this subplot, I would tend to assume that it was an anachronism--I've assumed that the clear recognition of a link between tobacco use and health problems was relatively recent. I'm not sure if this would be a fair assumption, or if the recognition did exist as far back as you say.
     
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  5. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    In A Study in Scarlett John Watson makes a profile of Sherlock Holmes where he makes the note, "Self poisons through the use of cocaine and tobacco." Sir Conan Doyle being a doctor himself it's clear that the hazards of smoking were known at least as early as 1890 and probably much sooner. Since its introduction from the new world smoking was seen everywhere as a sign of the decay of society. Its popularity was decryed in the same way video game violence is today.

    Those are the problems of perception. Tobacco has changed very little in the last 600 years but our harvesting has changed very much. Modern cigarettes are made not just from tobacco leaves, but from reconstituted stems and sheet tobacco. Are the more carcinogenic now? Almost certainly. Would the effects be noticeable in a habitual smoker? Almost certainly not.

    Smoking then would have all of the hazards of smoking today.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2014
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  6. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Addendum:
    It's worth pointing out that the habit has also increased greatly person to person. A frequent smoker in the 1800's might smoke 10 cigarettes a day, or maybe 1 or 2 pipes.

    A frequent smoker today smokes between 20 and 40 cigarettes a day.

    It's likely that whatever happened to this characters friend their smoking might not have been blamed for their troubles considering the larger list of health concerns of living in the 1800's.
     
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  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    @Jack Asher - Wow, thank you so much for all that information. Seems lighting a pipe back in those days required a lot of work, as with maintaining it. In the TV shows, they just show the guy putting a lit match to the bowl of his pipe and puffing on it, and when lit they are often waving it around in the air, etc. Unless they wanted ash to get everywhere, or for the light to go out, they would probably need to hold it as still as possible. I was also not aware you could pull the stem out of a pipe.

    A few more questions:

    Would it have to take careful precision to get the right amount of tobacco in the bowl?

    When you say 'until the strings are lit', what do you mean? I just assumed once the bowl was filled, he just held the match to the bowl until it lit. But really it's more of a slow process of lighting bits of tobacco at a time?

    Rolling cigarettes seems very easy, and he would do it if he were in a hurry. Did each brand have their own flavor? For instance, Red Dragon would taste differently than another tobacco?

    Assuming he's of the mid-to-upper class, would it still be 'proper' for him to smoke cigarettes a time or two? Or was there a class distinction between cigarettes=commoners and cigars/pipes=rich folks? Also, was it considered unlady-like for women to smoke, or were there plenty of women smoking as there were men?

    Again, thanks so much for the information. Really helpful. :D
     
  8. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    It's not really "careful precision". It just takes some practice. After a little bit you learn how to pack whatever pipe you're smoking.

    Here is a loaded pipe[​IMG]
    Notice that the tobacco at the top rough and uneven? At first only the very tips will light. Then you tamp it and they lay flatter, so you light it again and more of it catches. You tamp it again and the third or fourth time everything has a nice rosy glow.

    Hold on just a second chief. Pipe tobacco and rolling tobacco are different.
    [​IMG] (fig. 1, rolling tobacco)
    [​IMG] (fig. 2, pipe tobacco)
    You can't roll pipe tobacco, it wouldn't work right. Just like you can't pack rolling tobacco. There's no reason he couldn't carry both, but it's a bit gouache.

    I have a friend who claims he can't tell the difference in flavor between any tobacco. I like to think I can, but I've never had a taste test. At any rate they certainly smell different. And just like wine or tea there are connoisseurs and snobs. Certainly every brand would be different or what's the point of having a brand?

    Cigarettes we definitely considered uncouth, so the upper class people that smoked them took care to distinguish themselves. Silver cigarette holders and pearl cases, fine rolling paper, and expensive tastes.

    I forgot I didn't get to cigars. I can write more on them if you like.

    Smoking was definitely not a lady-like past time. In fact most of the women who smoked (or were seen smoking) were whores. It was seen as the habit of prostitutes.
     
  9. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    We used to roll pipe tobacco. It tasted horrible - but was cheaper: it was this guy's 'thing.'

    Anyway, OP said 'EIGHTEENTH' century - thin clay pipes, you find them in the Thames at low tide. atb
     
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  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You mean A Study In Scarlet.

    The Scarlet Letter is a very different book by Nathaniel Hawthorne. ;)

    /nitpick
     
  11. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Oh balls, gotta fix this brain.
     
  12. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    It's OK, I do that a lot myself. :p
     
  13. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Re: the match, true, in the 19th century. But in the 18th, he'd have to light his pipe with a coal taken with tongs from the fireplace, or maybe with a spill, which is a twisted piece of paper or shaved wood. Check out this page: http://www.muzzleloadingforum.com/fusionbb/showtopic.php?fid/42/tid/216351/, fourth entry down. There are other options as well, such as a burning glass, a char tube, and so on. But no matches for decades after your time period is over.

    I'd do closer research on smoking among the middle to upper classes (Europe or Colonial America), because what I read and recall tells me that snuff-taking was more popular among that demographic at that time, with pipe smoking considered an indulgence of the common folk. Chewing tobacco was generally popular.

    Ditto with the use of cigarettes in any form. Pretty sure that's pretty well just 19th century.

    As for your character worrying about lung or mouth cancer, some doctors said tobacco use was dangerous, others that it had positive medicinal properties. Either way, he might well be aware that it was a filthy habit, especially with chewing tobacco and spittoons full of, well, yuck. And his wife would remind him of the fact.
     
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  14. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    if you decide to go with snuff I've got a lot of experience with that too.

    I'd have to look it up but I dont think rolling papers were invented till very close to 1800 so that might be out
     
  15. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I have never use this, but my brother maintains that the best pipe lighter is a very thin coil of wire, held on a much less thin wire. You put it in a fire until it gets hot (not necessarily red hot), then jam it in to the pipe bowl. It lights evenly and there's no need to tamp.

    He says.

    The biggest problems with this are:
    1.) the coil will be smaller then the diameter of the pipe bowl, so the tobacco at the edges doesn't get lit.
    2.) there's a good chance that little wire is going to be motherfucking hot.
     
  16. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just a few things to bear in mind:
    In the 1800s, even into the late 1800s and early 19s, tobacco products were much purer than they are today. The fragrance of the smoke was sweeter and the taste cleaner.

    Nowadays, there are so many chemicals added to induce (addict) a person to continue smoking. The beautiful, sweet tobacco is baked and then shredded to a powder which is then mixed into a soup of chemicals (ammonia, formaldehyde, accelerants, saltpeter, and about 27 100 100s of other chemicals that don't belong in the human body) and mixed into a slurry which is then poured onto a massive baking sheet. The by-product of this abuse of the leaf is then baked and chopped into shreds. This, then, is the 'stuff' you smoke in your cigarette. Not so in 1850.

    A hundred or 150 yrs ago, the product was much purer. It did not contain an accelerant to make the cig burn faster and to stay lit while not puffing. This means that, on occasion, it is possible your smoke might, indeed, go out. Not as likely as a bowlful because, being exposed to the air rather than tucked away in your pipe bowl it would have more air passing over and through which would help to keep the tobacco burning.

    Neither did it contain any of the chemicals today's tobacco giants use to addict the smoker so the problem of addiction didn't come from the tobacco but from one of the 'personal' additives, like opium, which were used by some. Not all smokers used such 'additives' in their smoke, however, but many did.

    P.S. The first cigarette paper manufacturing company was in France in 1799.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2014
  17. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    No, the paper thin enough to roll was patented in 1799 but people had been rolling cigarettes with newspaper since 1703.

    As far as a more pure tobacco, what you've said might be true of some prepackaged cigarettes, but not even of all of them. American Spirits for example aren't made with reconstituted tobacco or processed stems.

    As far as your idea that the additives in cigarettes are the only thing that makes them addictive is laughably ludicrous. Tobacco is addictive, it always has been. That is the nature of how nicotine acts in your body.

    Then too, pipe and cigar smoking today have none of the additives you're talking about. They do have additives, but for the most part they are for flavor. One of my favorites is laced with vanilla, and there are some that have clove and whiskey, etc.

    On the contrary my pipe goes out all the time. Sometimes it's because I didn't pack it right, or it's a new pipe that I'm learning to pack. Sometimes I let it sit too long without puffing on it, either because I've forgotten about it or because I needed to do something else. And sometimes (as stated above) my pipe gets too hot, and I have to let it go out and cool down.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2014
  18. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I have the impression that smoking, before the advent of mass-produced cigarettes, was a leisure activity only. I don't think, with all the hee-haw involved in filling, lighting and smoking a pipe, that folks tended to do it constantly all day long the way they can do with cigarettes. I think it was a sit-on-the-porch, or sit-by-the-fire kind of activity, which is probably why we associate pipe-smoking with older people ...they had more time on their hands to do that.

    I also agree with @Catrin Lewis that smoking was often seen as beneficial to health, rather than detrimental to it in times gone by. Even as recently as my parents' generation (born in 1917) smoking was not seen as the health hazard we know it is today. My parents both smoked (probably why I never have!) and both of them maintained they had no idea when they started up that it was harmful. For men it was seen as 'everybody does it' and it was a male rite of passage. For women, it was seen as sophisticated and slightly risque if you were young ...like wearing makeup and high heeled shoes.

    Even when I was a teenager (in the 1960s) smoking was not seen as a huge health risk. It was starting to fall out of favour as a teenage fad—it was seen as the 'older generation's habit' at a time when young people were taking over the universe—but still wasn't the 'killer' we know it to be today. Those ads in Mad Men more or less say it all. Smoking was still considered somewhat glamorous and sophisticated by certain kinds of people. (Some of us knew better, though—I've hated smoking ever since I was a child, and have never been tempted to try even one cigarette. I remember how awful it was, living in a house full of smokers, and how they caused me to have constant sinus headaches that plagued my early years.)
     
  19. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    http://www.blazeup.co.uk/information/history/history-of-cigarette-papers.html
    This is the first article I could lay my hands on at a moment's notice. Not exactly precise but it does suggest that LaCroix began manufacture on a commercial scale at that time. Actually, he was manufacturing his papers for resale prior to getting the patent for them.

    Actually, I never said that the additives in cigarettes are the ONLY thing that makes them addictive. Major tobacco companies, however, have created a cocktail of chemicals, one of the targeted affects being to maintain their market. In fact, there is nicotine added above the level found in the leaf.

    On this point, you are absolutely correct. Tobacco for pipe is processed through pressure and heat with, generally, the only foreign additives being an anti-fungal (for obvious reasons), alcohol, as a medium for transmitting the aromatics and flavors, and flavor additives.

    Some, though certainly not all nor even most, cigars do have chemical additives. Though a true, beautifully hand-rolled cigar... and, grudgingly, machine rolled cigars, again, do not have the toxic chemical soup found in the average cigarette.


    Not being a pipe smoker, now or a hundred years ago, I cannot really compare so I will take your word on that one. I only go by what I am told. So, on that point, you get extra brownie points and a nod from me for the information straight from the pipe smoker's mouth. I'm sure I will find good use of that knowledge at some future point.
     

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