World War I made America a global power, and one of the necessities of our fighting men was cigarettes. The slogan of Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco, “The Makin’s of a Nation,” did not exaggerate the enormous contribution of tobacco to morale in the military. It would take nearly 20 years for doctors to notice the adverse health consequences of cigarette smoking, more than five decades for government health agencies to acknowledge the pandemic of smoking-related diseases, and nearly a century to tackle the problem head-on.

Uncle Sam staring down the Hun

Artist: Louis Raemaekers
Image from poster announcing an exhibition of Raemaekers’ work
Image credit: Library of Congress
https://www.loc.gov/item/2006680289/
1917

The Cigarette at War

An interactive map, featuring archival images from the Library of Congress, U.S. National Archives, U.S. Army Signal Corps, and others, of tobacco and cigarettes across the front lines.

Tobacco as Much as Bullets

Before America sent troops “Over There,” tobacco funds and relief agencies sent tobacco overseas to supply allied forces in the trenches, and as America entered the war more tobacco would follow the doughboys.

We Want You… To Smoke!

As America joined the war, tobacco manufacturers wrapped themselves in the flag and ensured that every soldier would have a ready supply of “the makin’s.” In all, 16 million cigarettes would be sent overseas as America and her tobacco industry both became global powers.

Voices in the Smoke

An interactive media gallery featuring the experiences of soldiers and civilians with tobacco during the war, with the quotes performed by contributors from across the country and around the globe

Songs for Smokes

Tobacco funds used music to rally donors to the cause of sending tobacco to the boys “over there.” This section features a performance of “The Makin’s of the USA” by the Alabama University Singers.

The Lasting Wounds

Well after the armistice, the wounds inflicted on those who fought would fade or heal. However, there were other wounds that would persist, illnesses that would continue to ravage former soldiers for decades to come and begin an entirely different war.

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