Holt Tobacco Collection

The Valentine Richmond History Center opened its’ latest exhibit which is a selection of objects from the Holt Tobacco The Valentine Richmond History Center opened its’ latest exhibit which is a selection of objects from the Holt Tobacco Collection. These objects, which include tobacco tins, tobacco promotional material, cigarette cards, tobacco production equipment and early tobacco lithographic and print advertising are examples of tobacciana, objects related to smoking and tobacco producing. Searching out and collecting tobacciana is a popular past time and is especially relevant to Richmond and the Valentine.

During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries tobacco was one of the city’s most prominent industries, and Richmond was considered for many years as the tobacco center of the South. Unfortunately, Richmond-based companies such as Allen & Ginter failed to capitalize on the growing popularity of pre-rolled, packaged cigarettes, and the heart of the tobacco industry soon shifted further south into North Carolina, concentrating in Durham and Winston-Salem, where it remains today.

Even after the decline of the Richmond tobacco trade, Richmond itself has remained a powerful marketing symbol in tobacco advertising. Dozens of early tobacco companies advertised their products as containing only Richmond or Virginia-style tobacco, transforming the city’s history into a marketing slogan.

This history can be seen throughout the Holt Collection, as well as the wider history of the growth and development of the tobacco industry.

Some of the highlights from the collection can be seen below:

Above: Three examples of tobacco tins. For much of the eighteenth-century tobacco was sold in unbranded wooden boxes with little effort make to distinguish or advertise individual brands. With the development of lithographic printing, which allow images to be easily and quickly printed on metal, tobacco tins began to be decorated with bright, compelling images in hopes of attracting customers and building brand loyalty.

Above: A promotional wooden chair created by Chesterfield Cigarettes to advertise their product. Circa 1920s.

Check out the Holt Tobacco Collection in the Klaus Galleries located on the ground floor of the History Center.

Ben Plache
Collections Intern
Valentine Richmond History Center