Bull Durham

During the United States Civil War, Union soldiers occupying Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia became accustomed to smoking the local tobacco products of the area. These tobaccos were lighter than the traditional Turkish blends of the time, and in Durham Station, North Carolina, troops discovered John Ruffin Green’s Genuine Durham Smoking Tobacco Company. The shredded bright leaf pipe tobacco was sold in small cloth bags with an image of a bull printed on the side of them.

Soldiers brought these cloth bags home after the war, and were so fond of the taste that the factory began receiving requests for more tobacco. The popularity of the “bull” tobacco grew, and quickly became a celebrated brand, and was one of the most famous trademarks in the world by 1890.

In the 1870s, Blackwell and Carr, owner’s of the brand, employed the use of advertising trading cards featuring images of political candidates and celebrities. These cards became the forerunners to today’s baseball cards. The New York Yankee’s dugout had a Bull Durham advertisement printed on the wall behind it at one point, and this is typically thought where the baseball term “bullpen” was derived.

The company’s printed ephemera is often quite rare, as Bull Durham most often advertised on billboards, murals, and on the sides of buildings—it is even said to have advertised on the Great Pyramid of Giza. The rarity of printed Bull Durham ads make them a celebrated addition to tobacciana collections.