Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Its Toasted: The Story of Lucky Strike by Roy Flannagan

The Story of Lucky Strike

cover of "The Story of Lucky Strike".

I found this short histoire in the tabacco and addiction center of a tiny bookshop, housed in the bottom floor of the owner's two-story Victorian, in a rural town of Vermont near where I am currently in residence quietly focusing on art manufacture.

Lucky Stike Logos
My collection of Lucky Strike logos.

As it happens, one such of my art works in progress features a large collection of hand-cut Lucky Strike logos--an icon I consider to be of impeccable visual excellence. A primo example of the height of American design, and the embodiment of the country's general aesthetic. The logo was designed in 1941 by "legendary" Raymond Lowery (who is also responsible for the Coca-Cola and Greyhound logos), as an article tucked away in the book informed me.

Turkist Tobacco

The Story of Lucky Strike reads like old-timey reporting, the sort of news reel that would have appeared at the beginning of a film showing in the 30's; and incidentally this first (likely only) edition was published in 1938. At the time, tobacco was regarded as a harmless and prosaic industry. It is this image that Roy Flannagan's history reflects, as he traces the tobacco plant from Pocahontas and John Rolfe, through the (then modern) farming and curing process, to the Lucky Strike factory. (At one point, while in the fields, Flannagan remarks that, "No other crop seems to draw so much rich, graceful beauty from the soil. Every leaf in the sturdy plant seems like a page from the book of health.") The production of the pack, from seed to shipment, spans 3 years.

The Ultra Violet Ray

In the oldey-goldy days, cured tobacco was hauled to large warehouses by farmers and sold at auction to buyers from the cigarette manufacturers. At the particular auction Flannagan observed, Ned Jones, the auctioneer, would conduct the bidding at a remarkable 460 words per minute. When the auction was over, however, he resumed casual chats with old friends in a delicious southern drawl, "'At was good leaf you brought in today, old timer. Made my soul fat to see you still makin' such fine tobacco. At 'at boy o' yourn's no slouch either. He's gitten' right smart gumption."

Alert Supervision

I much enjoyed the photo tour of the old Lucky Strike factory, made my soul fat to see all those beautiful Lucky's stacked so perfectly, like the interlocking crystals of ice-nine.

Quality Product

One last little tobacco fact of yore: "Yes, every twenty cigarettes bears a tax of six cents. It is one of the oldest excise taxes levied in America. Uncle Sam collects more money on a pack of cigarettes than the combined profit of farmer, warehouseman, manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer."

Into the World

No comments: