From its origins in the eighteenth century, Richmond’s tobacco makers fused the city’s identity with the “golden leaf.” Tobacco barrels, snuff tins, and cigarette packs left the James River docks stamped “Richmond, Virginia.” Richmond’s tobacco industry cultivated public celebration of tobacco to promote its use. Branding by Richmond’s Allen & Ginter, Lucky Strike, and Philip Morris ensured a global connection between tobacco and the city’s name. Tobacco also became entwined with Richmond’s culture and landscape, shaped by the companies that developed the city and region.
Who counts in the history of this “Tobacco-Made” city? Our “unfiltered” interpretation of tobacco in Richmond reveals stories of power, culture, work, leisure, and resistance. They are stories of enslaved people, quality control workers, stemmers, real estate developers, and entrepreneurs. You will learn how corporations and Richmond elites shaped the tobacco narrative. Several locations central to our story have now been renovated and repurposed, disguising their place in the history of our city. Understanding the hidden aspects of tobacco in Richmond complicates our city’s relationship with the fabled cash crop.