Tobacco was on the verge of becoming a stable crop in Northwest Missouri during the 1920s and 1930s, in the Depression era. Local farmers were planting the crop in hopes it would be a permanent thing.
In 1930, Missouri farmers grew over 5,000 acres of tobacco. A few people of Daviess County had hopes of tobacco becoming a stable local crop. Two men especially had hopes of achieving this goal. They planted a 3-acre plot of tobacco. By September, their prospects for a tobacco crop looked very favorable.
Tobacco experts who visited the county reported the crop as being of excellent quality. The two men had an acre and one-half of the crop stored in their barns for curing. It was cut September 10, and would remain in the barns until the middle of November when it would be graded and made ready for market which would open at Weston around December 10. A man would be sent from Weston to grade the farmer’s product.
In 1931, a Northwest Missouri farmer had a 3-acre plot planted in tobacco. The crop was cut around Sept. 10 and stored in his barn where it was kept until the middle of November. Then it was graded and prepared for the Weston market. When the crop was still in the field, an expert tobacco inspector had estimated the yield to be 1,700 pounds. It was thought the selling price would be 15 cents per pound. But market prices failed to hit expectations.
In an interview with Jess Reynolds of Gallatin, MO (on Sept. 29, 2003, focusing on his teenage years 1928-35), Jessie said, “Dad raised tobacco for a year. There wasn’t any price support. At the tobacco harvest, Dad took the tobacco to Weston and only received one cent to two cents per pound for it.”
A 74-year-old Pattonsburg, MO, lady had 2,970 tobacco sacks and made them into nine quilt tops. Neither she nor her husband smoked. Most of the sacks had been brought to her by her two grandsons who were members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps, while others had been given to her by her neighbors. She also made other things out of them which she said, if piled together, would fill a boxcar.
Gradually, however, more and more farmers tried growing tobacco and attracting attention as demand grew. By 1941, buyers from almost every state in the union were bidding on locally-grown tobacco and it was netting the farmers from $240 to $300 per acre.
In 1943, another tobacco project was established at Gallatin, MO. The American Legion Post placed jars for money donations around the town to raise money for cigarettes for the servicemen. The words “You did it before, you can do it again” were to be placed on each of the first 1,000 packages of cigarettes purchased with the $50 which was collected. In this case, the tobacco was purchased from the Reynolds Tobacco Company, makers of Camel cigarettes, for five cents per package.
— researched and presented by Wilbur Bush, Gallatin, MO