What’s Happening at the Library: Why is Prince Albert in a can?

Published 7:35 am Monday, May 8, 2017

By John Maruskin

Clark County Public Library

Sorry, I gotta do this.

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“Do you have Prince Albert in a can?”

Didn’t your brain suddenly echo, “Well, get him out of there!”? Sure it did.

The Library does have Prince Albert in a can … 12 cans of Prince Albert, in fact … and those cans are all part of a great new display of antique tobacco farming implements, advertising memorabilia and tools that farm tool aficionado Joe Barnes has on exhibit in the Library lobby.

Part of it is a Prince Albert counter display rack with 12 full cans of tobacco. The display rack proclaims Prince Albert is “The National Joy Smoke.” No wonder people called to find out where he was.

Along with Prince Albert, there’s another tobacco can with a lure of its own. Half and Half tobacco came in a can that could be compressed as it was emptied, thus saving pocket space for, say, a tin of Rooster snuff or a Cornbread Brand crate opening tool.

There’s some Civil War history attached to this display, too: A couple of cigar box openers. These weren’t simply advertising gimmicks. No, cigar box openers were a consequence of the Civil War.

Before 1860, only one cigar in 10 was purchased from a consumer-size box of 25, 50 or 100. That changed in 1863 when the need for revenues to fight the Civil War resulted in tax laws that mandated every cigar had to be sold from a box.

Those laws required tax stamps to be wrapped around the box, and after 1868, those stamps had to be destroyed when the box was opened. In 1868, the first cigar box opener was patented.

Cigar box openers were designed to slit the advertising label pasted on the end of the box, damage the tax stamp, pry up the nail that sealed the box, and, if desired, pound that nail back in.

A variety of cigar box openers were manufactured, each designed specifically for the needs of cigar sellers who constantly opened and re-closed boxes because the humidified showcases in which boxes are now displayed open was still a few years away.

No, I’m not a cigar connoisseur, I found that information at www.cigarhistory.info/Accessories/Box-openers.

No kidding, at the Library you can learn something new every day.

Thanks Joe, for the “smokin’” display which is not only fascinating, but beautifully designed. If you ever want to go into window dressing, the Library wants to hire you.

Other programs this week?

-— Tuesday at 10 a.m., Internet 1. Anyone, any age, can learn to use the internet. Never think you’re too old or too slow to use a computer. In this class, you push the buttons at your own pace.

— Wednesday at 2 p.m., Kentucky Picture Show presents a 1954 classic starring Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden. A playboy becomes interested in the daughter of his family’s chauffeur, but it’s his more serious brother who would be the better man for her. (Unless, of course, she’s a playgirl.)

— Thursday at 9 a.m., the May/June session of Flow Yoga begins. This class is sponsored by Clark County Community Education and taught by Kathy Howard, a certified yoga instructor with Yoga Alliance. There is a $25 charge per five-week session. To register, call Community Education  at 745-3946.

— Friday at 10 a.m., Write Local. If you think writing’s a miserable task best accomplished in gloomy solitude, come to Write Local and we’ll show you how much fun a workshop can be.

— May is Bicycling Month. On Saturday, May 20, the Library is sponsoring an alley ride through the lovely, leafy lanes of Winchester. Sign up today. Ride on.

John Maruskin is director of adult services at the Clark County Public Library. He can be reached at john.clarkbooks@gmail.com.