After long and faithful study of the great necromancer, Tobacco, whose attributes are legion, and whose ways are multiform as the shifting sands, I supposed myself enlightened as to all his tricks and turns, his quirks and quavers. But I was mistaken.
Never did general more skillfully marshal his forces for conquest than does this narcotic commander. His scent for prey is keen as a vulture's, and he scruples at no measure which will accomplish his ends.
Every one know the passion of boys for all sorts of collections--postage stamps and pictured flags, coins, eggs and bugs. The other day I came across a lad who, I was told, had a fine stock of portraits of celebrated characters, military and civic. So, being interested in boys and all that concerns them, I asked him to show me his treasures.
The moment I began to examine them a great surprise fell on me, and exclamations escaped my lips. Verily, I had stumbled upon a new craze, or rather, "fad," to use a popular and elegant term.
I am moved to copy some of the things I found on the back of these various cards, the front being reserved for the advertisement:
"This is the most complete and correct collection of all military and naval uniforms throughout the world."
"We will pack in the celebrated _______ Chewing Tobacco the portraits of all the leading base-ball players in the country in full uniform."
"Portrait of our leading actors and actresses in the costumes of all nations from 500 B.C. to the present time."
On some of these cards important statements are made:
"Figures never lie. The following statistics of our sales since 1882, showing the important increase from year to year, will convince you of the great and general appreciation of our cigarets by the public."
Having given these statistics, the company continues:
"Think of it! Four hundred and sixty-six million of them have been sold within the last six months, or an average of two millions for each working day; three thousand and twenty-two per minute, allowing ten hours per day!!"
The exclamations are mine.
Now behold the great unraveling! With every package of tobacco, in whatever shape, comes a slip or ticket, the card being regarded as a ticket, of which twenty-five, seventy-five or one hundred, as the case may be, are returned in exchange for some such premium as I have indicated. That is, to the lad who smokes or chews the required number of packages, or collects the slips or tickets from some smoker or chewer, is held out an attractive reward.
In one case, the picture of a man on horseback, the name of the man and the horse and the advertisement are all mixed up together. Opposite is found:
"Return 25 of these cards and we will send a large picture 8x10 inches, on heavy plate paper, of any horse in the series you may select."
Or it is:
"On receipt of 100 of these cards, we will deliver a beautiful illustrated Album of 'The Champions of the World,' or of 'The World's Beauties.'"
I am obliged, moreover, to add that some of these cards should be turned over to the vigilant Comstock. So sickeningly suggestive are many of them of their antecedents that it has required not a little sacrifice to examine them, as I have done, in the interests of mothers and their boys.
Would that I could reach the hearts of these tobacco-traders! How earnestly would I entreat them to stay their hands from laying such snares for unwary feet, from casting forth such nets into the great sea of human life! Can they realize what they are doing? Do they know that the tobacco appetite, once kindled, becomes a tyrant that binds its victims, hand and foot; that many a disease of body and mind follows in its train; that it tends toward inconsideration, discourtesy, selfishness and barbarism; and that it often awakens a thirst for strong drink which lead to the saloon and to ruin?
Do they know all this? And will they not forbear? Also, no! for the greed of gain overcomes every scruple of conscience.
So I must beseech the mothers and the sisters that they be vigilant in forseeing and forewarning and preventing.
And I make my appeal to you, dear boys--that young army which will soon control our Republic. Will you not give an absolute and persistent No to every temptation, however attractive, held out by this relentless Tobacco-despot? To yield is to enter the pathway to an ignoble slavery. And how can you maintain the freedom of this Republic unless you yourselves are freemen? --Marblehead (Mass.) Independent.
This is from the November 29, 1889 edition of The Plattsburgh Sentinel.
Meta Lander, a pen name for Margaret Woods Lawrence, was an outspoken opponent of tobacco. Apparently she doesn't care much for baseball cards either, for that is just a path to greater evils.
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