Field. Mus. Nat. Hist., Anth. Leaflets

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At the time of the discovery of America [says Linton], tobacco was in use over the greater part of the continent. It was not used in the subarctic regions of North America or in the extreme southern part of South America. On the west coast of South America and in the Andean highlands it was replaced by another narcotic, coca (Erythroxylum coca), from which the modern drug cocaine is extracted. The coca leaves were dried and chewed with powdered lime. Tobacco was smoked throughout most of its range, but the tribes of the northwest coast of North America mixed it with shell lime and made it into small pellets which were allowed to dissolve in the mouth. The tribes of Washington, Oregon, and a great part of California used it in the same way, but also smoked it. Along the eastern side of the Andean highlands in South America tobacco was both smoked and chewed. The chewing tobacco was prepared like the Andean coca, and the idea was probably borrowed from coca chewing.

Although Europeans learned the custom of smoking from the Indians and even copied the Indian smoking appliances rather closely, the modern American custom of tobacco chewing may not be of Indian origin. None of the North American Indians east of the Rocky Mountains chewed tobacco, and the only point at which South American tobacco chewing reached the Atlantic coast was a small region in northern Colombia. Modern chewing tobacco lacks the admixture of powdered lime, which was considered necessary by all Indian tobacco chewers and seems to have been an invention of the white frontiersmen. It is possible, however, that the idea of tobacco chewing was carried to the English colonies by the Spaniards, who may have learned it from the South American Indians.

The North American Indians used at least nine species of Nicotiana, most of which were cultivated. Nicotiana tabacum, the species to which practically all the modern commercial tobaccos belong, was grown throughout Mexico, the West Indies, and in northern and eastern South America. It was unknown north of Mexico until its introduction into Virginia by the English colonists. Nicotiana rustica, a much hardier species with a yellow flower, was grown by the Indians of the eastern United States and Canada as far west as the great plains and as far north as agriculture was possible. It was the first tobacco grown in Virginia for the European trade, but was soon supplanted there by N. tabacum. Small patches of it are still cultivated by some of the Central Algonquian tribes who use it in their ceremonies. N. attenuata was used over a larger area than any other species. It is found in its natural state in the southwestern United States and southern plains, and as a cultivated plant extends northward into western Canada and British Columbia. It was also cultivated on the lower Colorado, but the typical Pueblo tribes do not seem to have raised it. N. multivalvis was grown in Washington and Oregon, as well as by the Crow, who lived on the western edge of the plains. A related species (N. quadrivalvis) was grown by the settled tribes along the Missouri River. Still another species (N. biglovii) was used by the California tribes, and is known to have been cultivated by the Hupa. The three last-named species are rather closely related; it seems probable that N. multivalvis and N. quadrivalvis were brought into the Plains area from the west, displacing N. attenuata. . . . Three main methods of smoking were used by the American aborigines. The natives of northern and central South America and the West Indies were cigar smokers. The Central Americans and Mexicans were predominantly cigarette smokers, although some of the ancient Mexicans also used pipes. The North American Indians, with the exception of the Pueblo tribes of the Southwest, were exclusively pipe smokers. The distribution of these three methods in America has strongly influenced European smoking customs. The Mediterranean nations, who learned the use of tobacco from cigar- and cigarette-using Indians, still prefer to smoke it in these forms. The English, who came in contact with the pipe-smoking Indians of the eastern United States, are still predominantly pipe smokers. The custom of cigarette smoking did not become general in northern Europe and the United States until quite recent times, and the vigorous opposition which it has met here seems to be due quite as much to its novelty as to any proved injurious effects.1

1Linton, R.n/an/an/an/an/a, "Use of Tobacco among North American Indians," , 15: 1–3, 8–9.

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Chicago: Field. Mus. Nat. Hist., Anth. Leaflets in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed July 22, 2024,

MLA: . Field. Mus. Nat. Hist., Anth. Leaflets, Vol. 15, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 22 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: , Field. Mus. Nat. Hist., Anth. Leaflets. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 22 July 2024, from