Tobacco Culture

By: W. W. White

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: July 1, 1995

Three important species of tobacco grew wild in Texas, one of which, Nicotiana tabacum, is the species to which most modern commercial tobaccos belong. The consumption of tobacco, by means of cigarette and pipe smoking, was a universal custom among the Indians of Texas before the arrival of the Spaniards. The Indians gathered and cured the wild tobacco and also cultivated it in small patches. Early American settlers in Texas introduced several varieties of Kentucky and Tennessee tobaccos that were grown on farms and plantations for home consumption. In 1850 the state produced 66,897 pounds of tobacco. In 1879 Cuban cigar-leaf tobacco was grown successfully on a commercial scale near Willis in Montgomery County, but after a few years commercial production in that area ceased until 1891, when it was renewed with considerable success. A large crop was raised in 1892, and warehouses and a cigar factory were established at Willis. The industry prospered and spread to other counties in East Texas but eventually failed because of impractical methods of growing and handling. Some interest in tobacco culture was revived between 1900 and 1904, when the United States Department of Agriculture discovered that East Texas was capable of producing a high-grade cigar leaf that equaled the imported Cuban product. The department established a demonstration and experimental farm at Nacogdoches, and experimental plantings of tobacco were made throughout East Texas. A total of 425,000 acres in this region was found suitable for tobacco growing. Tobacco packing houses established at Nacogdoches and Palestine processed and shipped the Texas tobacco to cigar manufacturers in other states. A cigar factory at Nacogdoches made cigars from Texas tobacco. The tobacco industry in East Texas declined rapidly after 1910, as rising cotton prices made cotton a more profitable crop than tobacco. By 1940 annual tobacco production for the state had fallen to 2,715 pounds, and in 1945 only three farms reported tobacco acreage. In 1948 three tobacco manufacturers were operating in Texas, but no acreage was reported. In the 1950s there was no commercial production of tobacco in the state. By 1965 one tobacco processor was operating but reported no estimated acreage. In 1969 only two companies in Texas were manufacturing tobacco. By the late 1980s tobacco was neither being grown nor processed in Texas except at the H. W. Finck Cigar Company of San Antonio, founded in 1893, which continued to market its own brand of cigars.

James Patrick McGuire, The German Texans (San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1970; 2d rev. ed. 1987). George T. McNess, "The Production of Tobacco in Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 48 (January 1945).
  • Agriculture
  • Products (Plant)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

W. W. White, “Tobacco Culture,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 17, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995