From the early days of its settlement, Richmonders relied on tobacco as a staple crop and a means to accumulate land and wealth. Even after the Civil War changed the work patterns of tobacco farmers, this leaf continued – and continues – to play a major part in Richmond's economy.
Even after the Civil War changed the work patterns of tobacco farmers, this leaf continued – and continues – to play a major part in Richmond's economy. Factories to process tobacco sprang up along the James River, which at first provided power as well as transportation. Gradually these family or partner-owned Tobacco Row factories were taken over by the American Tobacco Company Trust until antitrust action broke up the company. Many of these factories continue to provide a familiar look to Richmond's cityscape, and some have been converted to lofts, warehouses, and other uses.
The National Tobacco Festival originated in South Boston, Virginia, where it was held from 1935 to 1941. The Optimist Club of Richmond began a similar Richmond-based Festival in 1949. The festival was held each fall in Richmond until 1984 and featured many activities, including balls, dinners, beauty contests, a parade and an annual Tobacco Bowl football game held in the City Stadium. A Queen of Tobaccoland was chosen from many tobacco princesses hailing from as far as South Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Download a guide to the Tobacco Collection (PDF).
This guide provides an overview of materials in the Valentine Richmond History Center’s collection related to Richmond’s tobacco industry. You can access these materials online via our Online Database. To research these materials in person, please submit a Research Request.
Funding for tobacco collection inventory and digitization generously provided by The Universal Leaf Foundation.
Tobacco Bowl Festival, 1949-1951 (V.72.114.03)
By W. Earl Minton. 16mm film with footage of the Tobacco Bowl Festival in Richmond, Virginia: First Parade, daytime (1949); Partial Coverage (1950); Partial Coverage (1951).
10th Annual Tobacco Festival, 1958 (V.85.132.02)
16mm film with footage of the 10th Annual Tobacco Festival in Richmond, Virginia
Tobacco Auctions in the Tobacco Centers of Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina, 1968 (V.69.91)
3 reel-to reel 1/4" audiotapes with recordings of tobacco auctions in Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina; one tape is titled Tobacco Lingo; one tape is titled Bud Chandler, Auctioneer (Danville, Virginia, July 23, 1968); one tape is untitled.
Tobacco Festival Parade, 1973 (V.85.132.03)
By Central Virginia Television Corporation. Memorex Chroma 90 videotape with television program (aired April 30, 1974) about the 1973 Tobacco Festival Parade in Richmond.
Tobacco Chant Song of the Auctioneer, c. 1975 (V.88.222.01)
By Piedmont Recording Service; WDVA. 45 RPM sound recording of tobacco auctioneer Bob Cage doing "tobacco chant.”
Tobacco Auctioneer World Championship, 1981 (V.88.222.02)
45 RPM sound recording of 1981 Tobacco Auctioneer World Championship on side one; recording of "Mac" Burnette, world champion auctioneer, on side two.
National Tobacco Festival papers, 1940-1984 (MS. C 65)
Records created and collected by the National Tobacco Festival (241 items). Includes publications related to the tobacco industry, newspaper clippings and magazine articles, invitations, programs, advertising posters, scrapbooks, a film, a videotape, and a photograph album. Additional three-dimensional and costume and textile objects are associated with this collection. There are two accession numbers associated with this collection (V.85.14 and V.85.132)
National Tobacco Festival souvenirs of Marilyn Anne Hubbard Southworth, 1953, 1969 (V.97.06)
1 evening dress, 1 sash, 3 programs, 1 letter, 2 memos, 2 schedules, 12 articles related to Marilyn Anne Hubbard (Southward)'s involvement in the 5th Annual National Tobacco Festival, 1953.
National Tobacco Festival Clothing of Kathleen Winston Rula, 1966 (V.98.03)
1 black evening dress (V.98.03.01) and 1 white dress and matching coat (V.98.03.02a,b) worn by Kathleen Winston Rula when she participated in the 1966 National Tobacco Festival as Miss Louisa County.
National Tobacco Festival costumes, 1948-1984 (V.85.14)
Costumes and flags associated with the National Tobacco Festival, including 2 fancy dress “page” costumes (.21-.22), 1 fancy dress “Queen’s cape” (.23), 1 “Queen of Tobaccoland” sash (.25); and 3 flags (.26-.28).
Philip Morris “Johnny” costume, c.1938 (2000.75a-c)
Halloween costume made for Joseph Buffington III by his mother who wrote to Philip Morris for the label on the costume. “Johnny” appeared in Philip Morris advertisements from the 1930s to 50s.
Logo Memorabilia by Phillip Morris (V.2007.62 and V.2008.13)
1 sweatshirt, 7 jackets, 2 coats, and 2 baseball caps
1 Cloth Tobacco bag (V.88.250.4); 1 Painted Tobacco banner (V.98.51); 2 Pillow covers made from tobacco silks showing baseball players
(V.49.74.1) and flags (V.49.74.2); 2 Table covers made from silk cigar ribbons from various tobacco companies (V.2004.49.1, .2).
The History Center’s collection includes thousands of examples of printed materials used by tobacco companies to advertise their products and encourage brand loyalty. Tobacco-related ephemera include:
The General Collection holdings reflect Richmond’s role as a tobacco manufacturing and distribution hub. Production, advertising, and merchandising objects include tobacco products, tobacco leaves, cigar molds, tobacco cutters, tobacco handling and sampling tools, tobacco tags, trade signs, lithograph stones for printing advertisements, tobacco stamps, and a wide range of objects listed below.
The collection also consists of items used for recreational tobacco consumption, including ashtrays, lighters, pipes and accessories, humidors, cigarette cases, match safes, and snuff boxes.
The History Center’s Photograph Collection includes owns 400+ images documenting Richmond’s tobacco industry. Related subjects include:
The History Center’s print collection contains thousands of engravings, lithographs, printing proofs, and posters that advertise tobacco brands or document industry activities during the 19th and 20th centuries. Related prints include: