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My Tobacco-pouch
I once knew a lady who said of her husband that he looke...

Primus is my brother's eldest son, and he once spent his Ea...

Scrymgeour was an artist and a man of means, so proud of hi...

Pettigrew's Dream
My dream (said Pettigrew) contrasts sadly with those of my ...

Tobacco From A Moral Stand-point |

Vanity All Is Vanity

How Heroes Smoke
On a tiger-skin from the ice-clad regions of the sunless no...

My Smoking-table
Had it not been for a bootblack at Charing Cross I shoul...

Smoking By Women
Ladies, when pipes are brought, affect to swoon; The...

This is the first attempt to write the history of smoking i...

Smoking Under King William Iii And Queen Anne
Hail! social pipe--thou foe of care, Companion of my...

What Could He Do?
This was another of Marriot's perplexities of the heart. He...

The Perils Of Not Smoking
When the Arcadians heard that I had signed an agreement ...

My Last Pipe
The night of my last smoke drew near without any demonst...

Smoking In The Restoration Period
The Indian weed withered quite Green at noon, cut do...

Smoking Unfashionable: Early Georgian Days
Lord Fopling smokes not--for his teeth afraid; Sir T...

Page Six |
stimulus. Alcohol, ever true to its companion, steps in and su...

Gilray's Flower-pot
I charge Gilray's unreasonableness to his ignoble passion f...

The Murder In The Inn
Sometimes I think it is all a dream, and that I did not rea...

A Covnter-blaste To Tobacco
That the manifolde abuses of this vile custome of _Tobacco_...

Tobacconists' Signs

I would enjoin every shop to make use of a sign which
bears some affinity to the wares in which it deals.

ADDISON, _Spectator_, April 2, 1711.

Shop-signs were one of the most conspicuous features of the streets of
old London. In days when the numbering of houses was unknown, the use
of signs was indispensable for identification; and greatly must they
have contributed to the quaint and picturesque appearance of the
streets. Some projected far over the narrow roadway--competition to
attract attention and custom is no modern novelty--some were fastened
to posts or pillars in front of the houses. By the time of Charles II
the overhanging signs had become a nuisance and a danger, and in the
seventh year of that King's reign an Act was passed providing that no
sign should hang across the street, but that all should be fixed to
the balconies or fronts or sides of houses. This Act was not strictly
obeyed; and large numbers of signs were hung over the doors, while
many others were affixed to the fronts of the houses. Eventually, in
the second half of the eighteenth century, signs gradually disappeared
and the streets were numbered. There were occasional survivals which
are to be found to this day, such as the barber's pole, accompanied
sometimes by the brass basin of the barber-surgeon, the glorified
canister of a grocer or the golden leg of a hosier; and inn signs have
never failed us; but by the close of the eighteenth century most of
the old trade signs which flaunted themselves in the streets had

The sellers of tobacco naturally hung out their signs like other
tradesfolk. Signs in their early days were, no doubt, chosen to
intimate the trades of those who used them, and in the easy-going
old-fashioned days when it was considered the right and natural thing
for a son to be brought up to his father's trade and to succeed him
therein, they long remained appropriate and intelligible. Later, as we
shall see, they became meaningless in many cases. But in the days when
tobacco-smoking first came into vogue, the signs chosen naturally had
some reference to the trade they indicated, and one of the earliest
used was the sign of the Black Boy, in allusion to the association
of the negro with tobacco cultivation. The Black Boy existed as a
shop-sign before tobacco's triumph, for Henry Machyn in his Diary,
so early as December 30, 1562, mentions a goldsmith dwellying at the
sene of the Blake Boy, in the Cheep; but the early sellers of tobacco
soon fastened on this appropriate sign. The earliest reference to such
use may be found in Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair, 1614, where, in
the first scene, Humphrey Waspe says: I thought he would have run mad
o' the Black Boy in Bucklersbury, that takes the scurvy, roguy tobacco
there. Later, the Black Boy, like other once significant signs,
became meaningless and was used in connexion with various trades.
Early in the eighteenth century a bookseller at the sign of the
Black Boy on London Bridge was advertising Defoe's Robinson
Crusoe; another bookseller traded at the Black Boy in Paternoster
Row in 1712. Linendrapers, hatters, pawnbrokers and other tradesmen
all used the same sign at various dates in the eighteenth century. But
side by side with this indiscriminate and unnecessary use of the sign
there existed a continuous association of the Black Boy with the
tobacco trade. A tobacconist named Milward lived at the Black Boy in
Redcross Street, Barbican, in 1742; and many old tobacco papers show a
black boy, or sometimes two, smoking. Mr. Holden MacMichael, in his
papers on The London Signs says: Mrs. Skinner, of the
old-established tobacconist's opposite the Law Courts in the Strand,
possessed, about the year 1890, two signs of the 'Black Boy,'
appertaining, no doubt, to the old house of Messrs. Skinner's on
Holborn Hill, of the front of which there is an illustration in the
Archer Collection in the Print Department of the British Museum, where
the black boy and tobacco-rolls are depicted outside the premises.
The Black Boy, indeed, continued in use by tobacconists until the
nineteenth century was well advanced. A tobacconist had a shop uppon
Wapping Wall in 1667 at the sign of the Black Boy and Pelican.

Other significant early tobacconists' signs were Sir Walter Raleigh,
The Virginian and The Tobacco Roll. Sir Walter, as the reputed
introducer of tobacco, was naturally chosen as a sign, and his
portrait adorns several shop-bills in the Banks Collection. The
American Indians, represented under the figure of The Virginian, and
the negroes were hopelessly confused by the early tobacconists, with
results which were sometimes surprising from an ethnological point of
view. As the first tobacco imported into this country came from
Virginia, a supposed Virginian was naturally adopted as a
tobacco-seller's sign at an early date. An Indian or a Negro or a
figure which was a combination of both, was commonly represented
wearing a kilt or a girdle of tobacco leaves, a feathered head-dress,
and smoking a pipe. A tobacco-paper, dating from about the time of
Queen Anne, bears rudely engraved the figure of a negro smoking, and
holding a roll of tobacco in his hand. Above his head is a crown;
behind are two ships in full sail, with the sun just appearing from
the right-hand corner above. The foreground shows four little black
boys planting and packing tobacco, and below them is the name of the
ingenious tradesman--John Winkley, Tobacconist, near ye Bridge, in
the Burrough, Southwark. Sixty years or so ago a wooden figure,
representing a negro with a gilt loin-cloth and band with feathered
head, and sometimes with a tobacco roll, was still a frequent ornament
of tobacconists' shops.

The Tobacco Roll, either alone or in various combinations, was one
of the commonest of early tobacconists' signs, and was in constant use
for a couple of centuries. It may still be occasionally seen at the
present time in the form of the twist with alternate brown or black
and yellow coils, which up to quite a recent date was a tolerably
frequent adornment of tobacconists' shops, but is now rare. This roll
represented what was called spun or twist tobacco. Dekker, in James
I's time, speaks of roll tobacco. The youngster who mimics the
stage-gallants in Jonson's Cynthia's Revels as described in Chapter
II (_ante_; page 31), says that he has three sorts of tobacco in his
pocket, which probably means that it was customary to mix for smoking
purposes tobacco of the three usual kinds--roll (or pudding), leaf and
cane. One would have thought that a representation of the tobacco
plant itself would have been a more natural and comprehensive sign
than one particular preparation of the herb, yet representations of
the plant were rare, while those of the compressed tobacco known as
pudding or roll in the form of a Tobacco Roll, as described above,
were very frequently used as signs.

From the examples given in Burn's Descriptive Catalogue of London
Tokens of the seventeenth century, it is clear that the Tobacco
Roll was a warm favourite. Three Tobacco Rolls was also used as a
sign. In 1732 there was a Tobacco Roll in Finch Lane, on the north
side of Cornhill, over against the Swan and Rummer Tavern. In 1766,
Mrs. Flight, tobacconist, carried on her business at the Tobacco
Roll. Next door but one to St. Christopher's Church, Threadneedle

The shop-bill of Richard Lee, who sold tobacco about 1730 at Ye
Golden Tobacco Roll in Panton Street near Leicester Fields, is an
elaborate production. Hogarth in the earlier period of his career as
an engraver engraved many shop-bills, and this particular bill is
usually attributed to him, though the attribution has been disputed.
There is a copy of the bill in the British Museum, and in the
catalogue of the prints and drawings in the National Collection Mr.
Stephens thus describes it: It is an oblong enclosing an oval, the
spandrels being occupied by leaves of the tobacco plant tied in
bundles; the above title (Richard Lee at Ye Golden Tobacco Roll in
Panton Street near Leicester Fields) is on a frame which encloses the
oval. Within the latter the design represents the interior of a room,
with ten gentlemen gathered near a round table on which is a bowl of
punch; several of the gentlemen are smoking tobacco in long pipes; one
of them stands up on our right and vomits; another, who is
intoxicated, lies on the floor by the side of a chair; a fire of wood
burns in the grate; on the wall hangs two pictures ... three men's
hats hang on pegs on the wall. Altogether this is an interesting and
suggestive design, but hardly in the taste likely to commend itself to
present day tradesmen.

A roll of tobacco, it may be noted, was a common form of payment to
the Fleet parsons for their scoundrelly services. Pennant, writing in
1791, describes how these men hung out their frequent signs of a male
and female hand conjoined, with the legend written below: Marriages
performed within. Before his shop walked the parson--a squalid,
profligate figure, clad in a tattered plaid nightgown, with a fiery
face, and ready to couple you for a dram of gin, or roll of tobacco.

Combinations of the roll in tobacconists' signs occur occasionally. In
1660 there was a Tobacco Roll and Sugar Loaf at Gray's Inn Gate,
Holborn. In 1659 James Barnes issued a farthing token from the Sugar
Loaf and Three Tobacco Rolls in the Poultry, London. The Sugar Loaf
was the principal grocer's sign, and so when it is found in
combination with the tobacco roll at this time it may reasonably be
assumed that the proprietor of the business was a grocer who was also
a tobacconist.

Before the end of the seventeenth century, however, the signs were
ceasing to have any necessary association with the trade carried on
under them, and tobacconists are found with shop-signs which had no
reference in any way to tobacco. For instance, to take a few examples
from the late Mr. Hilton Price's lists of Signs of Old London from
Cheapside and adjacent streets, in 1695 John Arundell, tobacconist,
was at the White Horse, Wood Street; in the same year J. Mumford,
tobacconist, was at the Faulcon, Laurence Lane; in 1699 Mr. Brutton,
tobacconist, was to be found at the Three Crowns, under the Royal
Exchange; in 1702 Richard Bronas, tobacconist, was at the Horse
Shoe, Bread Street; and in 1766 Mr. Hoppie, of the Oil Jar: Old
Change, Watling Street End, advertised that he sold a newly invented
phosphorus powder for lighting pipes quickly in about half a minute.
Ask for a Bottle of Thunder Powder.

Again, in Fleet Street, Mr. Townsend, tobacconist, traded in 1672 at
the Three Golden Balls, near St. Dunstan's Church; while at the end
of Fetter Lane, a few years later, John Newland, tobacconist, was to
be found at the King's Head.

Addison, in the twenty-eighth _Spectator_, April 2, 1711, took note of
the severance which had taken place between sign and trade, and of the
absurdity that the sign no longer had any significance. After
satirizing first, the monstrous conjunctions in signs of Dog and
Gridiron, Cat and Fiddle and so forth; and next the absurd custom
by which young tradesmen, at their first starting in business, added
their own signs to those of the masters under whom they had served
their apprenticeship; the essayist goes on to say: In the third
place I would enjoin every shop to make use of a sign which bears some
affinity to the wares in which it deals. What can be more inconsistent
than to see ... a tailor at the Lion? A cook should not live at the
Boot, nor a Shoe-maker at the Roasted Pig; and yet for want of this
regulation, I have seen a Goat set up before the door of a perfumer,
and the French King's Head at a sword-cutler's.

Notwithstanding the few examples given above, tobacconists, more than
most tradesmen, seem to have continued to use signs that had at least
some relevance to their trade. Abel Drugger was a tobacco-man,
_i.e._ a tobacco-seller in Ben Jonson's play of The Alchemist, 1610,
so that it is not very surprising to find the name used occasionally
as a tobacconist's sign. Towards the end of the eighteenth century one
Peter Cockburn traded as a tobacconist at the sign of the Abel
Drugger in Fenchurch Street, and informed the public on the
advertising papers in which he wrapped up his tobacco for customers
that he had formerly been shopman at the Sir Roger de Coverley--a
notice which has preserved the name of another tobacconist's sign
borrowed from literature. Seventeenth--century London signs were the
Three Tobacco Pipes, Two Tobacco Pipes crossed, and Five Tobacco
Pipes. At Edinburgh in the eighteenth century there were tobacconists
who used two pipes crossed, a roll of tobacco and two leaves over two
crossed pipes, and a roll of tobacco and three leaves.

The older tobacconists were wont to assert, says Larwood, that the man
in the moon could enjoy his pipe, hence the 'Man in the Moon' is
represented on some of the tobacconists' papers in the Banks
Collection puffing like a steam engine, and underneath the words,
'Who'll smoake with ye Man in ye Moone?' The Dutch, as every one
knows, are great smokers, so a Dutchman has been a common figure on
tobacconists' signs. In the eighteenth century a common device was
three figures representing a Dutchman, a Scotchman and a sailor,
explained by the accompanying rhyme:

_We three are engaged in one cause,
I snuffs, I smokes, and I chaws!_

Larwood says that a tobacconist in the Kingsland Road had the three
men on his sign, but with a different legend:

_This Indian weed is good indeed,
Puff on, keep up the joke
'Tis the best, 'twill stand the test,
Either to chew or smoke._

The bill bearing this sign is in Banks's Collection, 1750. Another in
the same collection, with a similar meaning but of more elaborate
design, shows the three men, the central figure having his hands in
his pockets and in his mouth a pipe from which smoke is rolling. The
man on the left advances towards this central figure holding out a
pipe, above which is the legend Voule vous de Rape. Above the middle
man is No dis been better. The third man, on the right, holds out,
also towards the central figure, a tobacco-box, above which is the
legend Will you have a quid.

A frequent sign-device among dealers in snuff was the Crown and Rasp.
The oldest method of taking snuff, says Larwood, in the History of
Signboards, was to scrape it with a rasp from the dry root of the
tobacco plant; the powder was then placed on the back of the hand and
so snuffed up; hence the name of _rape_ (rasped) for a kind of snuff,
and the common tobacconist's sign of La Carotte d'or (the golden root)
in France. _Rape_ became in English rappee, familiar in
snuff-taking days as the name for a coarse kind of snuff made from the
darker and ranker tobacco leaves. The list of prices and names given
by Wimble, a snuff-seller, about 1740, and printed in Fairholt's
History of Tobacco, contains eighteen different kinds of
rappee--English, best English, fine English, high-flavoured coarse,
low, scented, composite, &c. The rasps for obtaining this _rape_,
continues Larwood, were carried in the waistcoat pocket, and soon
became articles of luxury, being carved in ivory and variously
enriched. Some of them, in ivory and inlaid wood, may be seen at the
Hotel Cluny in Paris, and an engraving of such an object occurs in
'Archaeologia,' vol. xiii. One of the first snuff-boxes was the
so-called _rape_ or _grivoise_ box, at the back of which was a little
space for a piece of the root, whilst a small iron rasp was contained
in the middle. When a pinch was wanted, the root was drawn a few times
over the iron rasp, and so the snuff was produced and could be offered
to a friend with much more grace than under the above-mentioned
process with the pocket-grater.

The tobacconists' sign that for very many years was in most general
use was the figure of a highlander, which may still perhaps be found
in one or two places, but which was not at all an unusual sight in the
streets of London and other towns some forty or fifty years ago. Most
men of middle age can remember when the snuff-taking highlander was
the usual ornament to the entrance of a tobacconist's shop; but all
have disappeared from London streets save two--I say two on the
authority of Mr. E.V. Lucas, who gives it (in his Wanderer in
London) as the number of the survivors; but only one is known to me.
This is the famous old wooden highlander which stood for more than a
hundred years on guard at a tobacconist's shop in Tottenham Court
Road. About the end of 1906 it was announced that the shop was to be
demolished, and that the time-worn figure was for sale. The
announcement created no small stir, and it was said that the offers
for the highlander ran up to a surprising figure. He was bought
ultimately by a neighbouring furnishing firm, and now stands on duty
not far from his ancient post, though no passer-by can help feeling
the incongruity between the time-honoured emblem of the snuff-taker
and his present surroundings of linoleum and sich.

Where Mr. Lucas's second survivor may be is unknown to me. Not so many
years ago a wooden highlander, as a tobacconist's sign, was a
conspicuous figure in Knightsbridge, and there was another in the
Westminster Bridge Road; but _tempus edax rerum_ has consumed them
with all their brethren. In a few provincial towns a wooden highlander
may still be found at the door of tobacco shops, but they are probably
destined to early disappearance. In 1907 one still stood guard--a tall
figure in full costume--outside a tobacconist's shop in Cheltenham,
and may still be there. There is a highlander of oak in the costume of
the Black Watch still standing, I believe, in the doorway of a tobacco
shop at St. Heliers, Jersey. It is traditionally said to have been
originally the figure-head of a war vessel which was wrecked on the
Alderney coast. Another survivor may be seen at the door of a shop
belonging to Messrs. Churchman, tobacco manufacturers, in Westgate
Street, Ipswich. A correspondent of Notes and Queries describes it
as a very fine specimen in excellent condition, and adds: Mr. W.
Churchman informs me that it belonged to his grandfather, who
established the business in Ipswich in 1790, and he believed it was
quite 'a hundred' year old at that time.

One of the earliest known examples of these highlanders as
tobacconists' signs is that which was placed at the door of a shop in
Coventry Street which was opened in 1720 under the sign of The
Highlander, Thistle and Crown. This is said to have been a favourite
place of resort of the Jacobites. In his Nicotine and its Rariora,
Mr. A.M. Broadley gives the card, dated 1765, of William Kebb, at ye
Highlander ye corner of Pall Mall, facing St. James's, Haymarket, and
says that the highlander was a favourite tobacconist's sign for 200
years. I have been unable, however, to find evidence of such a
prolonged period of favour. I know of no certain seventeenth-century
reference to the highlander as a tobacconist's sign.

The figure was usually made with a snuff mull in his hand--the
highlander being always credited with a great love and a great
capacity for snuff-taking. But one curious example was furnished, not
only with a mull but with a bat-like implement of unknown use. Mr.
Arthur Denman, F.S.A., writing in _Notes and Queries_, April 17, 1909,
said: I have a very neat little, genuine specimen of the old
tobacconist's sign of a 42nd Highlander with his 'mull.' It is 3 ft.
6 in. high, and it differs from those usually met with in that under
the left arm is an implement almost exactly like a cricket-bat. This
bat has a gilt knob to the handle, and on the shoulder of it are three
chevrons in gold, without doubt a sergeant's stripes. On the exposed
side of the bat is what would appear to represent a loose strip of
wood. This strip is nearly one-third of the width of the instrument,
and extends up the middle about two-fifths of the length of the body
of it. I can only guess that the bat was, at some time, primarily, an
emblem of a sergeant's office, and, secondarily, used for the
infliction of chastisement on clumsy or disorderly recruits; and
perhaps it was equivalent to the _Pruegel_ of German armies, with which
sergeants drove lagging warriors into the fray. But is there any
record of such an accoutrement as being that of a sergeant in the
British army? and what was the purpose of the loose strip, unless it
was to cause the blow administered to resound as much as to hurt, as
does the wand of Harlequin in a booth.

These questions received no answers from the learned correspondents of
the most useful and omniscient of weekly papers. Personally, I much
doubt Mr. Denman's suggested explanations of his highlander's curious
implement. There is no evidence that a sergeant in the British army
ever carried a cricket-bat-like implement either as a sign of office
or to be used for disciplinary or punitive purposes like the canes of
the German sergeants of long ago. It would seem to be more likely that
this particular figure was of unusual, perhaps unique, make, and had
some special local or individual significance, wherever or for whom
it was first made and used, which has now been forgotten.

After the suppression of the Jacobite uprising of 1745, the English
Government made war on Scottish nationality, and among other measures
the wearing of the highland dress was forbidden by Parliament. On this
occasion the following paragraph appeared in the newspapers of the
time: We hear that the dapper wooden Highlanders, who guard so
heroically the doors of snuff-shops, intend to petition the
Legislature, in order that they may be excused from complying with the
Act of Parliament with regard to their change of dress: alledging that
they have ever been faithful subjects to his Majesty, having
constantly supplied his Guards with a pinch out of their Mulls when
they marched by them, and so far from engaging in any Rebellion, that
they have never entertained a rebellious thought; whence they humbly
hope that they shall not be put to the expense of buying new cloaths.
This is not a very humorous production, but at least it bears witness
to the common occurrence in 1746 of the highlander's figure at the
shops of snuff and tobacco-sellers.

The highlander, as he existed within living memory at many shop doors,
and as he still exists at a few, was and is the survivor of many
similar wooden figures as trade signs. The wooden figure of a negro or
Indian with gilt loin-cloth and feathered head, has already been
mentioned as an old tobacconist's sign. In early Georgian days a
tobacconist named John Bowden, who dealt in all kinds of snuff, and
also in Aloe, Pigtail, and Wild Tobacco; with all sorts of
perfumer's goods, wholesale and retail, traded at the sign of The
Highlander and Black Boy in Threadneedle Street, London. At York, in
this present year, 1914, I came upon a brightly painted wooden figure
of Napoleon in full uniform and snuff-box in hand, standing at the
door of a small tobacco-shop. Another class of sign or emblem was
represented by the wooden midshipman, which many of us have seen in
Leadenhall Street, and which Dickens made famous in Dombey and Son.
Sometimes the wooden figure of a sailor stood outside public-houses
with such signs as The Jolly Sailor; and a black doll was long a
familiar token of the loathly shop kept by the tradesmen mysteriously
known as Marine Store Dealers. Images of this kind sometimes stood at
the door, or in many cases were placed on brackets or swung from the

Sir Walter Scott said that in London a Scotchman would walk half a
mile farther to purchase his ounce of snuff where the sign of the
Highlander announced a North Briton.

Dickens's little figure, which adorned old Sol Gills's shop, thrust
itself out above the pavement, right leg foremost, with shoe buckles
and flapped waistcoat very much unlike the real thing, and bore at
its right eye the most offensively disproportionate piece of
machinery. But this was only one of many little timber midshipmen in
obsolete naval uniforms, eternally employed outside the shop-doors of
nautical instrument-makers in taking observations of the
hackney-coaches. All have disappeared, together with the black dolls
of the rag shops and many other old-time figures. A stray highlander
or two, or other figure, may survive here and there; but with very few
exceptions indeed, the once abundant tobacconists' signs have
disappeared from our streets as completely as the emblems and tokens
of other trades.

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