Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Bull Durham Targets the Troops

I was reading an online issue of Colliers Weekly which had an article by Winston Churchill on Verdun. Then I came across this two-page spread featuring the boys deployed down on the Mexican border in 1916. This advertisement was better than Churchill's piece, IMHO. It brought back memories of when my dad went on a "roll-your-own" kick and the smell became unbearable around the house.  The father of the current governor of California, who was governor in the 1960s, had just pushed through a  5 or 10 cent tax on a pack of cigarettes. Mom made him give up the pouch tobacco, but he never voted for Brown the Elder again.

Thanks to reader Steve Harris for sending in this addition:


  1. My father bought a "roll-your-own" machine and used Bugle Tobacco in the 1950's. He was a late-comer into WWI. Instead of France he was assigned to the Philippines and then to Eastern Siberia. I suspect he used Bull Durham and rolled his own cigarettes many times.

  2. I recall once hearing that the tobacco companies got America hooked on factory-made cigarettes by giving them out to the troops in WW1. Was this true? I know from personal experience in the Vietnam Era that every C-Ration pack came with four cigarettes.

  3. Also, referring to the photo of the Ninth Mass. Infantry, it appears that at least some of these soldiers have got carbines. What were these?

  4. I had a summer job in the 1960's, and the draftsman working behind me, an elderly man, told me that while in France in 1918, soldiers who contracted gonorrhea would pack cotton into the Bull Durham bag and fasten them to their penis to soak up the urethral exudate.

    1. This is good to know, might come in handy, though of course, for the other guy.