New Exhibit: Tobaccoland

Tobaccoland
On display January 10 – June 20, 2020
Mary Duke Biddle Room, Rubenstein Library, Duke West Campus (Click for map)

Please check our website for current library hours.


About the Exhibit

Explore the history of cigarettes in the United States, from their initial unpopularity, to their emergence as a ubiquitous element of American life, to rise of vaping today. Tobaccoland examines the role that tobacco marketing, branding, and nicotine addiction have played in twentieth-century American history. The National Cancer Institute estimates that by the 1950s, as many as 67 percent of young adult men smoked cigarettes. But as smoking rates spiked, so did illnesses associated with cigarettes. In the past sixty years, anti-smoking campaigns, lawsuits, regulations, and public smoking bans (like Duke’s pledge to be smoke-free by July 2020) have led to a drastic reduction in the numbers of Americans who smoke. Still, cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.

Image of 1950s tobacco advertisements
Following World War II, the number of smokers in the U.S. reached unprecedented levels. The 1950s saw a boom in tobacco advertising. Ads featuring film and television stars and athletes became commonplace alongside tobacco-sponsored television programming and advertising at sporting events.

The exhibit is divided into several sections, including early cigarette marketing innovations, moral opposition to tobacco, targeted marketing to women and youth, the U.S. Surgeon General’s 1964 report linking cigarette smoking and cancer, the search for new markets, government regulation and industry response, e-cigarettes, quitting and prevention, and the complicated legacy of tobacco in building the Duke family fortune and, ultimately, Duke University.

Image of exhibit case
Tobacco was the foundation of the Duke family fortune. And the foundation of Duke University is inextricably tied up with the Dukes’ tobacco wealth.

Tobaccoland was curated by Joshua Larkin Rowley (Hartman Center Reference Archivist), Meghan Lyon (Head, Rubenstein Library Technical Services), and Amy McDonald (Assistant University Archivist).


Exhibit Book Talk: Please Join Us!

Date: Friday, February 7
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room (Rubenstein Library 153)

Dr. Sarah Milov, Professor of History at University of Virginia, will discuss her recently published book, The Cigarette: A Political History (Harvard University Press, 2019), in conjunction with the exhibit.

Free and open to the public.

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