Friday, February 19, 2010 2/19/10 - cigarettes

In today s excerpt the Roaring 1920s brought a
boom in cigarette smoking. U.S. cigarette production
doubled during the decade as people hungered for
sophistication, and as Prohibition, which had
unintentionally increased alcohol consumption,
increased cigarette smoking along with it:

"New issues of securities of industrial companies
would increase from 690 [in 1924] to nearly 2,000 in
1929. Brokers' loans to investors and share
ownership would quadruple by 1929. The number of
Americans who paid tax on income of a million dollars
a year also would quadruple.

"The new optimism about the future led to a boom in
consumer spending. Radio sales doubled in 1923,
then tripled in 1924. On average, nearly every family
had a car, and drivers were branching out from black
Model Ts to an assortment of new makes in colors
ranging from 'Florentine cream' to 'Versailles violet.'
Average people bought items they hadn't imagined
spending money on just a few years earlier: from
Listerine mouthwash and crossword puzzle books to
vacuum cleaners and meat slicers to new golf clubs
and even property in Florida.

"Prosperity changed the culture. Suddenly there were
traffic lights, filling stations, and new concrete
highways with chicken dinner restaurants and tourist
rest stops. Giant broadcast radio stations with
nationwide hookups brought Graham McNamee's
play-by-play or the Happiness Boys or reports on the
Scopes Monkey Trial into more than one out of three
homes. More Americans followed politics now,
including the presidential nominating convention,
which was covered live from Madison Square
Garden. ...

"Along with America's new wealth came a hunger for
sophistication. College applications spiked, as did
international travel. The most popular nonfiction books
included Outline of Science, The Story of
Philosophy, Why We Behave Like Human Beings,
and Emily Post's Book of Etiquette (the top
seller). The now-literary-minded masses read an
astonishing rush of new novels during this period: F.
Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Ernest
Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, Herman
Hesse's Siddhartha, Franz Kafka's The
Trial, and Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway.
Newly minted intellectuals tried to parse James
Joyce's Ulysses or T S. Eliot's The Waste
Land. New fans of the arts listened to George
Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, and saw plays
by Eugene O'Neill, who won three Pulitzer Prizes
during the 1920s.

"One sure way for both men and women to appear
sophisticated was to smoke cigarettes. Advertisers
depicted pretty girls, cigarettes in hand, imploring men
to blow smoke their way. Tobacco manufacturers
announced that 'now women may enjoy a
companionable smoke with their husbands and
brothers.' Women had earned the vote and entered
the work force, now millions of women of all ages
exercised their right to take up smoking. Blue tobacco
smoke wafted through theater lobbies, where Greta
Garbo's most important silent movies - Flesh and
the Devil, The Temptress, The Torrent, and
Love - appeared in 1926 and 1927, just as
talking movies debuted. Sports fans smoked as they
watched Babe Ruth, also a smoker, hit sixty home
runs in 1927 for the New York Yankees; his
teammates, known as 'Murderers' Row,' easily
smoked their way through the World Series that year.
Prohibition also fueled smoking, just as it increased
illegal alcohol consumption. The more people drank,
the more they craved a smoke. ...

"During the decade prior to 1929, U.S. cigarette
production doubled."

Frank Partnoy, The Match King, Public Affairs,
Copyright 2009 by Frank Partnoy, pp. 91-93.


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