Field Trip: Cigarette Booklets
HOST: The American Civil War divided a nation, and in the case of Virginia, divided a state. During the war, juggernauts like McClellan, "Stonewall" Jackson, and Robert E. Lee fought for control of the region, and in 1863, West Virginia was formally admitted into the Union as a state in its own right. Appraiser Rafael Eledge and I visited the Rosanna A. Blake Library of Confederate History at Marshall University to look at a couple of Civil War generals memorialized in collectible 19th century tobacco booklets. HOST: Rafael, as a baseball fan, I'm familiar with these old tobacco cards with sports figures on there, but I haven't seen them with Civil War generals. Give us a history of the tobacco card.
They started using the tobacco cards and booklets in the packs in the 1800s and used them on up into the early 1900s. And they serve a couple of purposes. They put them in the packs to make the packs stiffer so you wouldn't get your cigarettes bent. And once you got them out, they were collectible. These particular booklets were issued by the Duke Cigarette Company. They were printed in about 1889. Washington Duke that owned the company was in the Confederate navy during the war. Like a lot of the people in the war on the Confederate side, he was penniless after the war, but he made his fortune selling tobacco through advertisements like this. HOST: We have a couple notable Confederate veterans here. One of them is General Robert E. Lee, and if you watch ROADSHOW for a couple episodes and see you, we're gonna hear his name.
That's a fact. HOST: But General Ewell is not as well known.
Right, a famous Confederate general, but not as famous as Lee. Some people wouldn't have known him, but with these cards, not only would you see his photograph on the cover, they had a biography inside. So when you opened it, you would have his history. And you'd learn things like he lost his leg at the Battle of Second Manassas. HOST: Well, the ones we're looking at today are part of the collection here at the Confederate Library at Marshall University, but they made both Union and Confederate part of this series.
They did, they made 25 Confederate and 25 Union. HOST: And these were officers from all different ranks: generals, admirals, commodores.
All of the big dogs. HOST: So is there a difference in value between the Confederate ones and the Union ones? Well, it's kind of like with sport cards. It's not the team that you play for, it's how popular the player is. The lesser-known generals only sell for $50 to $100 in a retail situation. Even the famous ones are only $150 to $200. HOST: What if you have all 50 as a set? Is there more value in that?
Well, today, they can retail for about $4,000 for a set. If time's on your side, you can sell them individually and make more money, but it's easier to sell them as a set. HOST: Because the lesser-known officers aren't gonna go as quickly.
Exactly. HOST: Rafe, thanks so much for sharing these with us, and what a great place to talk about them.
Glad to be here.
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