Sometime in the 1980’s…on our way to Harold’s Military Reunion.
It was not our intent to travel off the interstate, but we were in no hurry, and decided to take advantage of Kentucky’s beauty in late September.
I had remembered to pack my camera this trip, and soon into the state we were admiring the never-seen-before tobacco barns. I was disappointed that I could not immediately snap photographs of the interesting old barns standing too far off the highway, hidden in dense growth with their blackened fronts faded by decades in the sun, although most of them were close enough to see the long stalks of light burnt umber tobacco, not yet dried, hanging in the cut-out fronts of the barns.
There wasn’t much difference in them except size.
Some were larger, but most were the same charcoal color with rusting tin roofs, standing out in the countrysides as an attraction to passersby.
We had not traveled far one morning after enjoying a leisurely breakfast of ham, grits, and red-eye gravy, in Booneville, Kentucky, when tobacco barns soon appeared on both sides of the highway. Suddenly I spotted a barn close enough to snap a photograph, along with an added attraction…CHEW MAIL POUCH TOBACCO…”Treat Yourself To The Best,” it read, but as we slowly pulled off the highway for a better view, my excitement diminished when I saw the farmhouse nearby. A lazy-looking old dog was lying in the cow path near the barn. He didn’t look up nor bark, and I felt good about that as I hurriedly read the misspelled sign…”Don’t Inter.” The temptation was too great, as I nervously jumped out of the car with my camera in hand. I took time to snap one photograph of the old tobacco barn with the artful painting…MAIL POUCH, and hoped for the best.
We did see other tobacco barns as we travelled, but not another one with the MAIL POUCH advertising.
Luckily, the on photograph turned out “pretty good,” and after returning home from the beautiful state of Kentucky, and admiring the photograph, I decided to find out more about the MAIL POUCH advertising.
I learned that The Bloc Brothers Tobacco Company used these old barns to expand and advertise their chewing tobacco.
One of the brothers, Aaron, designed the ads in the early 1900’s, where they first appeared on the sides of brick stores.
The first MAIL POUCH tobacco sign was painted in 1901. This approach to the use of barns was cheap advertising for the tobacco company. The tobacco farmers benefited as well…the side of their barns painted with a choice of free MAIL POUCH chewing tobacco or $5.00 a year. The artful drawing was never changed, although in the 50’s, some of the barns were repainted using different logos…”Chewing Serves To Steady Nerves,” and “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco-Treat yourself To The Best.”
I also learned that at one time, 20,000 MAIL POUCH tobacco barns landscaped the American countrysides, and today less than 2,000 remain, so until I’m lucky enough to view another old tobacco barn, and snap a picture, I’ll hold on to my memories of Kentucky’s’ beauty in September, and I’ll smile remembering the day I snapped the photograph as I read the faded, misspelled, home-made sign at the end of the path…”No Trespathing.”