was, in effect, the American “newspaper of record” from soon after its
start in 1857 until 1912. As early as 1858, it criticized various
aspects of tobacco use, as shown by a
cartoon on secondhand smoke.
This website’s title—“Coffin Nails”—comes from a nineteenth century
slang term for cigarettes; it was featured on April 4, 1896 in a
full-page advertisement for a tobacco-addiction “cure.”
|As a public service, HarpWeek has
compiled this 50-plus year history of tobacco controversy and criticism
as shown in the editorials, articles, news briefs, cartoons,
illustrations, poetry, and advertisements of
The items are augmented with historical commentary by HarpWeek historian
Dr. Robert C. Kennedy.
Here are some
significant findings from this compilation:
- As early as 1862, tobacco addiction
was a recognized problem, and various “cures” were offered to users.
- In 1867, the editor of
George William Curtis, identified the three major health dangers of
tobacco use: cancer, heart disease, and lung disease.
- The tobacco industry responded to
these public health concerns by marketing tobacco products that were
allegedly “healthful” and contained “no nicotine.” For
example, in 1868,
Lorillard’s Yacht Club smoking tobacco (for pipes)
claimed in capital letters, “ALL POISONOUS NICOTINE IS EXTRACTED.”
- Filtered cigarettes were advertised
Weekly as early as 1887,
and not introduced in the 1930s, as often stated.
- It was the Spanish-American War of
1898, not America’s entry into World War I in 1917, that first made
cigarette smoking “manly” and led to the addiction of a generation
of young servicemen.
- Both anti-tobacco reformers and
those supportive of or indifferent toward tobacco use by adults
agreed that cigarette smoking was bad for children and teenagers.
- Over a century before the Office of
the U.S. Surgeon General declared that smoking causes cancer, an
anti-tobacco movement was already in existence, putting forward most
of the arguments used today against tobacco products.
|In October 1869, Thomas Nast, America’s
most famous cartoonist, drew “College
Reform,” a ten-panel
cartoon promoting no smoking and no drinking by students. Another
Nast cartoon in February 1882 characterized a bill to reduce taxes on
cigarettes and whiskey as “A
Bill to Make Idiots.”
A later cartoon in 1882 entitled “Swell
Struggling with the Cig’rette Poisoner”
probably contains the first mention of Marlboro (as a place, not a
brand) in relation to a cigarette.
|The material on this website has been
organized into six main sections as shown below. We hope that it
will reinforce the current anti-smoking efforts, especially among middle
school, high school, and college students, by providing an illustrated
record of the early period of the 135-year struggle against tobacco.
|Selected anti-tobacco items from the
Harper’s Weekly, 1857-1912:
Dangers of Tobacco
Lung and Heart Disease
Fatigue and Headaches
A Symbol of Bad Behavior
Easy Availability of Tobacco
Other Tobacco Products
Pipes and Snuff for Women
“Healthful” Smoking Products