Why did Cloth Sacked Tobacco Disappear?

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Briar Lee

Sep 4, 2021
Humansville Missouri
In 1986 manufacture of Bull Durham in a cloth sack ceased. Our Advertiser lasted a bit longer, maybe, and the last tobacco in a cloth sack I know about was Old Hillside, at the last made by Stoker’s, and it disappeared about twenty years ago.

When I was kid the brand Country Gentleman was popular, and it came in a small 1 1/2 ounce sack and a large one of maybe 8 ounces. There had to be other brands I didn’t know of or forgot.

Old Hillside was aged Kentucky burley, and most of the others were bright Virginia. No matter the brand the tobacco was cut into very fine flakes, and I think the majority was hand rolled into cigarettes, but some pipe smokers I remember used it, including my own grandfather, who preferred Country Gentleman in a pipe and Our Advertiser in a cigarette.

If there had been enough demand you could still buy flaked tobacco in a cloth sack in the grocery stores.

But if you look, there are lots of brands of powdered nasal snuff in tubular cans for sale online, and not a trace of tobacco in a cloth sack.

There are still sacks for sale.

100 Percent Cotton Muslin Drawstring Bags 12-Pack For Storage Pantry Gifts (5 x 7 inch - 12 pack, Beige) Amazon.com: 100 Percent Cotton Muslin Drawstring Bags 12-Pack For Storage Pantry Gifts (5 x 7 inch - 12 pack, Beige) : Home & Kitchen - https://a.co/d/itguy5k

Maybe the high price of sacks, was the reason the tobacco manufactures had to stop selling tobacco in a sack.

Why do you think sacked tobacco went extinct?


Mar 30, 2019
In the semi-rural NorthEastern USA
The same reason the Model T, rotary dial phone and many other out dated items went extinct. They no longer made sense given the more modern, efficient alternatives. Occam's Razor.
I can't really see many modern pipe smokers buying tobacco like that. Unless it was sold as an artisanal blend or some other hoitie toitie thing.

Briar Lee

Sep 4, 2021
Humansville Missouri
Because foil and plastic keep the tobacco from drying out longer.
I think all the foil pouches of pipe tobacco are gone. It all comes in a plastic fold over sleeve now.

The first sleeve type pouch I remember was Apple, about fifty years ago.

Cloth sacked flaked tobacco was sold alongside pocket tins and foil pouches for about 75 years. When sacked tobacco died, the only brand I remember seeing in a foil pouch for a while was Our Advertiser.

As stated earlier, there were impoverished home workers in the South who put strings in sacks until World War Two, but after that the sacks were stringed by machine.

The tiny flakes must have resisted turning to dust better than crimp or ribbon cut.

But with all the plug and twist brands out there, you’d think at least Bull Durham would have survived, but in a plastic sleeve.

There is a Bull Durham brand of cheap “pipe tobacco”, but it’s ribbon cut.


Dec 22, 2013
New York
Bull Durham became extinct the year before I visited my cousin whose family had moved to the U.S in 1982. I looked for it in 1987 and it had vanished so I guess its disappearance circa 1986 is correct. Prince Edward was sold as 'crimp cut' for rolling your own. I am sorry I never got to try it, I see unopened bags and whole boxes show up on Oi Vay occasionally but I doubt the stuff would be any good after all this time. I was told by an old timer that the tobacco was almost like a powder and that you tapped the bag to get the stuff onto the cigarette paper. I would imagine that unless it was rolled very tight the cigarette would go up like a Roman candle!
Seems like the tobacco would be dry as dust when you got it
I really think that the fear of tobacco going stale has become manic in the tobacco hobby. Tobacco is dried and rehydrated several time throughout curing and processing. Dried is perfectly ok, stale is something that would take a much, much longer time.
And, for cigarettes, you want it to be crunchy, for the most part.


Apr 29, 2017
Minnesota USA
Distribution back in those days was not as far and wide, and the product would not be held for months.

Packaging materials back then were what they were. I would imagine that either the retailer or end user could add moisture by keeping it jarred.
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Feb 21, 2013
Forums member shouldn't have to ask, with our mania to keep everything in sealed tins, sealed mason jars, mylar bags, and so forth. A cloth drawstring bag was the standard way square rigger sailors kept their tobacco, and apparently it lasted in smokeable condition for those endless voyages. Since tobacco lasts fairly well for a long time, I think it was primarily fashion that made cloth bags passe.
Jun 9, 2018
Bulk is sold in plastic bags here in the UK. Manufacturers of all products are ditching plastic because of environmental reasons so it wouldn't surprise me if tobacconists came up with a different option.

What it would be I don't know but those cloth sacks with the logo on look really cool.
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