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Smokescreen: the Victorian Vogue for Tobacco


This exhibition is based on the collection of John Fraser (1836-1902) who was the Secretary of the printing and publishing department of Cope’s Tobacco Company in Liverpool from the 1860’s until about 1900. During this time not only did Fraser amass a collection of books and pamphlets relating to the history of tobacco, but he also collected together examples of the advertising material produced between 1870 and 1894 under his direction. To promote Cope’s tobacco products Fraser drew on the talents of the artist John Wallace (1841-1903) and a group of writers including James Thomson (1834 -1882) and Richard Le Gallienne (1866-1947) to produce posters, the literary review Cope’s Tobacco Plant, and a series of Smoke Room Booklets.

In the selection of items exhibited the advertising material presents smoking as ‘an essential social habit’ enjoyed to its fullest extent by the informed connoisseur taking time to savour ‘the soothing weed’, while the books and pamphlets embody several centuries of debate between the opponents and advocates of tobacco.

I would like to extend my thanks for their help to my colleagues in Special Collections and Archives, Ian Qualtrough and Suzanne Yee of the Graphics Unit, and the staff of the University Art Collections, Ann Compton, Matthew Clough, and Carol Clarke for hosting this exhibition.

Dr Maureen Watry, Head of Special Collections and Archives, May 2002

John Fraser and his Collection

John Fraser (1836-1902) was a native of Wick, Scotland, but in his youth he moved to Liverpool and during the 1860’s took up employment as the secretary of the printing and publishing department at Cope’s Tobacco Factory, Lord Nelson Street, Liverpool. Fraser’s book collection reflects several lifelong passions including Scottish literature, positivist philosophy, phrenology, bee-keeping, and tobacco.

In 1900 Fraser seems to have made a decision to refine and focus his collection by selling, among others, twenty-one of the limited editions published by William Morris’s Kelmscott Press which were some of the most highly prized books by the collectors of the day. Fraser’s books realised a total of 426 pounds, 18 shillings and 6 pence that he appears to have invested in adding more tobacco-related material to his collection. Indeed of the two thousand books and pamphlets in the collection almost half, ranging in date from 1574-1901, is devoted to every aspect of tobacco. The concentration of books in this field is an indication not only of Fraser’s passion for the subject but also his enthusiasm for his work at Cope’s. In his role as the editor for Cope’s Tobacco Plant (1870-1881), Fraser regularly mined his collection for poems and references for this monthly periodical devoted to tobacco.

  1. A pencil portrait of John Fraser by John Wallace, signed ‘J.W. Oct 17/98 Glen Nevis’
    • The pencil portrait of Fraser by his friend the artist John Wallace (1841-1903), a fellow Scot, was done during one of the trips made occasionally by the two men to the Highlands.
  2. Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge, Sale Catalogue of Books relating to Tobacco, collected by W[illiam] Bragge…..being a most extensive assemblage of works upon its growth and manufacture, also its use and abuse….sold by auction on the 1st day of June, 1882.
    • Sotheby’s had already sold a portion of the ‘extensive and valuable library’ of William Bragge (1823-1884) in 1880, but for John Fraser the interest lay in this portion devoted to tobacco. Fraser’s note to the bookseller David Nutt giving a list and the limit he was prepared to pay for each item shows that Fraser was in pursuit of twenty items for which he engaged Nutt to bid. Unfortunately, Fraser was only able to add five items to his collection from this sale, but he marked up his copy of the catalogue with the names of the buyers for the 265 items and prices realised for each item. The sale realised a total of 180 pounds and 4 shillings.
  3. Tobias Venner, Via recta ad vitam longam. Or, A treatise wherein the right way and best manner of living for attaining a long and healthfull life, is clearly demonstrated ... The fourth impression, amplified with many profitable additions…As also An accurate Treatise concerning Tobacco, by the same Author, London, 1660
    • In Venner’s opinion the ‘immoderate use of tobacco’ was to be decried, but he did ‘not altogether condemn the use thereof’ and listed in his treatise ‘precepts to be observed in the use of tobacco’:
    • Tobacco taken after meals assists the digestive process.Tobacco should be taken in the morning, a quarter of an hour before dinner and supper, but especially before bed.Tobacco should not be consumed while eating. It should be taken ‘after travelling in misty, foggy, and rainy weather, because it preventeth catarrhes’.Tobacco should be taken in moderation, ‘not exceeding the quantity of a pipe-full or two at a time’.Tobacco and drink should not be consumed together ‘because thereby the operations of the fume are hindered’.Tobacco should not be taken before meals ‘because it dulleth and dejecteth the appetite’.When ‘drawing in the fume’ care should be taken to keep it out of the eyes’ for it is ‘unto them, by reason of its smoakie drying…very offensive’.Smokers should ‘warily draw the fume out of the pipe’ in order not to ‘exasperate the wind pipe…much offend and disquiet the lunges and the mouth of the stomach’.After taking tobacco the smoker should not go ‘abroad into the Aire…but rather refrain there from the space of half an hour or more…because the pores of the body being open, by means of the stong working of the fume,…ineffable hurts may happen by the sudden access of the Aire’.
    • Venner concluded by declaring that the use of tobacco ‘is only tolerable by way of Physick, not for pleasure, or an idle custome’.
  4. Richard Brathwait, The Smoaking Age, Or, the Man in the Mist: with the Life and Death of Tobacco. Dedicated to Those Three Renowned and Imparellel’d Heroes, Captaine Whiffe, Captaine Pipe, and Captaine Snuffe. London, 1617.
    • The frontispiece is usually described as the earliest representation of a tobacco shop.
  5. J Elagnitin, Pseud. [Joseph B. Nightingale], Mock Heroics, on Snuff, Tobacco, and Gin. London, 1822
    • The caricaturist, Robert Cruikshank, depicts a fraternity of smokers enjoying what are defined in the text as ‘the manly joys’ of ‘this exalted art’.
  6. Jonathan Carver, A Treatise on the Culture of the Tobacco plant; with the manner in which it is usually cured adapted to northern climates and designed for the use of the landholders of Great Britain. London, 1779
    • Written during the American War of Independence (1775-1783), or as Carver delicately puts it ‘the present unhappy dissentions,’ when trade was disrupted, this treatise details the methods required to grow tobacco in Britain. Carver argues that two acts of parliament from the reign of Charles II prohibiting the cultivation of tobacco should be repealed. Carver felt that the landowner would profit, revenue could be restored to the treasury by means of a duty on the plants, and smokers would be more than satisfied with the ‘powerful aromatic’ tobacco produced in a northern climate.
  7. Een korte beschrijvinge van het wonderlijcke kruyt tobacco…., Joris Paulwelsz, Rotterdam, 1623
    • A Dutch version of Tabaco. The distinct and seuerall opinions of the late and best phisitions that haue written ... thereof…1595, the first English work on tobacco by Anthony Chute. Chute recommended the moderate use of tobacco for medicinal purposes and for a sound sleep after great weariness.
  8. Ioyfull newes out of the new-found world. Wherein are declared, the ... vertues of diuers herbs Englished by John Frampton. Newly corrected ... Whereunto are added three other bookes treating of the Bezaar stone, the herb Escuerconers, the properties of iron ... and the benefit of snow. Printed by E. Allde, London, 1596.
    • This is the third edition of Frampton’s translation of the 1574 edition of Nicolas Monardes’ popular text describing herbs and medicines brought from the New World. Frampton supplemented Monardes’ text with an account of the report about tobacco sent to France by Jean Nicot, the French Ambassador to Lisbon in the mid-sixteenth century.
  9. An album of Nineteenth Century English tobacco labels
    • This is one of several items that Fraser acquired not only for its antiquarian appeal but also to use as a reference when considering the designs for tobacco labels for Cope’s own products.


The Great Debate

The great debate concerning the use and abuse of tobacco is well represented in John Fraser’s collection. Beginning with James I many of the anti-tobacco publications expressed both medical and moral arguments against the use of tobacco. By the end of the nineteenth century anti- and pro-tobacco writers found themselves united with social reformers against juvenile smoking, a problem that was addressed specifically in the Children’s Act of 1908 which prohibited the sale of tobacco to those under sixteen years of age.

The pro-smoking publications especially those of the Victorian period stressed the historical, scientific, and literary contexts of tobacco use and were aimed at a fellowship of smokers who shared the experience of ‘the divine weed’.

  1. James I, A Counterblaste to Tobacco, London: Robert Barker, 1604.
    • In this pamphlet James I expressed his violent opposition to the habit of tobacco taking. Unlike some writers who expressed opposition to the recreational use of the weed but felt that use for medicinal purposes was acceptable, James I found no positive merit in the use of tobacco and concluded his ‘counter blast’ with the following declaration:
    • ‘A custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmfull to the braine, dangerous to the lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume therof, nearest resembling the horrible stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomlesse.’
  2. A Dissertation on the Use and Abuse of Tobacco. In relation to Smoaking, Chewing and Taking of Snuff… London, 1720
    • The writer of this pamphlet observed that ‘there is not any question oftner started in common conversation than this viz. How far is the use of tobacco beneficial or hurtful?’ The answer contained in the conclusion was that ‘tobacco when us’d as a medicine, may be of some service for several disorders, but very prejudicial when taken in common’ The writer confessed that he would count his pamphlet a success if it discouraged any ‘lady or gentleman to forsake the abominable custom of using this noisome weed’.
  3. John Lizars, Practical Observations on the Use and Abuse of Tobacco. Greatly enlarged from the original communication on the effects of Tobacco Smoking….Edinburgh, 1868
    • Lizars an Edinburgh surgeon and member of the Anti-Tobacco Society had first published his Observations in 1854. Three years later in 1857 the ‘Great Tobacco Controversy’ was raging in the medical magazines and the popular press. This 1868 reprint of Lizars’ celebrated pamphlet ‘on the destruction of the human tongue from cancer induced by habitual smoking’ was intended to save ‘some of the those unhappy victims of so debasing a practice, … from suffering so dreadful a disease’.
  4. William A. Alcott, Tobacco: its effects on the Human System, with notes and additions by Nelson Sizer, New York, 1883
    • Alcott presented short chapters on a variety of health problems that smokers experienced. Sizer went on to link smoking with, among other things, heart disease and rudeness. He was appalled to observe the popularity of smoking among college students and he noted the part women could play in reform by joining societies to give them strength in resolving not to marry a man addicted to tobacco. The case history of Mr K. of Augusta, Georgia was presented. The illustrations showed that a year after giving up tobacco both his health and his hair had returned to him.
  5. Anti-Tobacco Tracts, c.1872
    • These tracts are examples of late nineteenth century anti-smoking activity. The English Anti-Tobacco Society, based in Manchester from 1867, continued the activities of the Anti-Tobacco Society founded in 1853 by Thomas Reynolds. The Society concentrated on the distribution of books and pamphlets to spread its message. Across the Atlantic the American Anti-Tobacco Society, founded by the Reverend George Trask (1798-1875), adopted the same method to promote its work.
  6. John Quincy Adams Henry, The Deadly Cigarette, London, 1906.
    • While a pastor in Chicago in the 1890’s Reverend Henry joined the school teachers of that city in their fight to suppress juvenile smoking. Through his preaching on both sides of the Atlantic he hoped to protect children ‘from the malignant influences of the …devil’s kindling wood’. The publication of Reverend Henry’s book was undertaken by the British Lads’ Anti-Smoking Union whose members pledged to ‘abstain from smoking, from intoxicating drink, from gambling, and from bad language’.
  7. What Put My Pipe Out; or Incidents in the Life of a Clergyman, London, c.1863
    • This anonymous book details events in the life of an American clergyman who is persuaded to begin smoking on his travels in Europe. His friends in London then make various arguments against tobacco and he gives up his devotion to the weed, but not before it has almost ruined the chance for a romantic liaison.
  8. Sir Robert Baden-Powell, Scouting for Boys, London, 1920
    • It was Baden-Powell’s conviction that ‘a scout or any man whose life depends on his steadiness of nerve and his keenness of sight and hearing will as a rule not trust himself to smoke because he knows it is injurious to those qualities’. Although he did allow that ‘smoking does more harm to you when you are young than when you are old’.
  9. Joseph Baker, Smoking & Smokers, an Antiquarian, Historical, Comical, Veritable, and Narcotical Disquisition, London, 1845.
    • Joseph Baker, a cigar dealer, gave the following as reasons for publishing this manual: ‘to exhibit the depth of my own researches concerning tobacco, to immortalise myself,…but also to plunge you deeply into its lore, and to give you the vast benefit derivable from my lengthened experience, and that of other sages who have flourished before me’.
  10. Henry James Meller, Nicotiana; or, The smoker's and snuff-taker's companion; containing the history of tobacco…with an Essay in its Defence…, London, 1833.
    • On its publication this ‘little volume for …the lovers of Tobacco’ was pronounced ‘a pleasant publication’.
  11. Andrew Steinmetz, The Smoker’s Guide, London, 1876
    • Steinmetz, ‘a veteran of smokedom,’ wrote this pocket guide to present ‘what to smoke-what to smoke with-and the whole “what’s what” of Tobacco, Historical, Botanical, Manufactural, Anecdotal, Social, and Medical’.
  12. Walter Hamilton, An Odd Volume for Smokers. A Lyttel Parcell of Poems and Parodyes in Prayse of Tobacco, London, 1889.
    • In his introduction Hamilton notes that despite ‘the edicts of kings, the repressive “Smoking Prohibited” of dictatorial Railway Directors, the solemn warnings of doctors,…smoking has been ever on the increase, and is now more largely indulged in by high and low, rich and poor, than it has ever been’
  13. Albert Sims, The Witching Weed, A Smokers’ Anthology, London, c.1900.
    • Sims collected together over a hundred pieces in praise of tobacco including several from Cope’s Tobacco Plant.


Cope’s Tobacco Factory

Thomas Cope (1826-1884) and his brother George began manufacturing cigars in Liverpool in 1848. By 1876 Cope’s Tobacco Factory in Lord Nelson Street employed some 2,000 workers including 1,500 women. The Co-operative News for 26 August 1876 reported with some admiration that the women workers at Cope’s were responsible for making thirty-six million cigars a year. Cope’s were proud of the factory and the working conditions including a series of free evening classes where women workers could learn to cook ‘simple dishes, cheap, nutritious and palatable’. In the first class in September 1875 the instructor Mrs Thwaites cooked ‘sea pie, Australian (i.e. tinned) meat pie, and treacle pudding’. A month later additional classes were conducted in St George’s Hall for ‘women in a better position than wives of the artisan class’ who could pay a fee. As well as recording the success of this Liverpool School of Cookery John Fraser’s scrapbook of press cuttings includes accounts by various visitors to the factory, that ‘great establishment for the production of the soothing weed’. Many visitors commented on Cope’s ‘well appointed printing and lithographic office where they produce their own showcards and labels’. From 1870 this office, under John Fraser’s management, also produced Cope’s Tobacco Plant and many full-colour lithographic posters designed by the artist John Wallace.

  1. Cope’s Tobacco Plant, Liverpool, 1870-1881.
    • A notice to readers in the first number of this monthly journal published in March 1870, declared that, ‘the “Tobacco Plant” does not deal with the ordinary news topics of the day except where and so far as they immediately concern the Tobacco Trade. Its motto is “Tobacco; all about Tobacco, and nothing but Tobacco;” and to this programme it will adhere’. As the Tobacco Plant was aimed at ‘the smoker as well as the trader’ ‘lighter contributions’ including stories, verse, and anecdotes were added to amuse the consumer during ‘those hours of ease in which he enjoys his favourite luxury’. In 1874 Fraser combined his role as editor of the Tobacco Plant with his passion for books when he announced the introduction of a new feature; a review column devoted to ‘re-prints of old and scarce books’ on the grounds that ‘All bookworms are not smokers, but nearly all book-antiquarians are’. In addition to historical and literary themes the Tobacco Plant devoted a considerable number of column inches and illustrations to comment, parody, and satire, on the activities of the Anti-Tobacco Society. It was reported that members of the Society were apt to refer to the Tobacco Plant as ‘the Liverpool thorn’.
  2. Cope’s Tobacco Leaves, 1885.
    • A selection of articles, verse, and illustrations from Cope’s Tobacco Plant, which had ceased publication in 1881, were reprinted enclosed by a generous number of advertisements for Cope’s products.
  3. Cope’s Tobacco Labels.
    • Original drawings and colour proofs for labels for Cope’s Mohican, Hand Cut Virginia, March 1897. Proof for a packet design for Cope’s Bristol Bird’s Eye, undated.
  4. Cope’s Office Pic-Nic Menu, Saturday June 6th 1885.
    • Designed by John Wallace for Cope’s office pic-nic, a rather grand affair held at the Wynnstay Arms’ Hotel in Ruabon, North Wales.
  5. Cope’s Cigarette Cards, 1880’s.
    • Designed by Wallace the ‘Dickens’ Gallery’ and the ‘Shakespeare Gallery’ were packed in Cope’s cigarettes, while the ‘Characters from Scott’ were packed in 1oz packets of Golden Cloud and Cope’s Mixture.
  6. John Wallace (1841-1903), Self-Portrait, from a reproduction published in The Student, University of Edinburgh, 9th March 1899.
    • As a painter Wallace was known for his golfing scenes and for detailed small-scale drawings and watercolours. For Cope’s Wallace was able to exploit the full range of his talents on a large scale in the posters and cards produced as colour lithographs and on a small scale in the illustrations for the Tobacco Plant. For some of this work he adopted the pseudonym ‘George Pipeshank’ reflecting not only his devotion to tobacco, but also an admiration for the work of the caricaturist George Cruikshank. As the result of a chance encounter between Wallace and the editor of The Student, the magazine published by the Students’
    • Representative Council at the University of Edinburgh, Wallace provided a masthead and headpieces for that publication during the 1880’s.
  7. Cope’s Tobacco Factory, c.1890.
    • At the end of the nineteenth century Cope’s was ‘one of the sights of Liverpool’. A visiting reporter from the Birmingham Daily Gazette wrote with some admiration of the processes involved in preparing tobacco, making cigars and cigarettes, and of the Sample Room that contained ‘specimens of the tobacco plant from every part of the globe’. He also noted that Cope’s had ‘workshops where they…execute their own engineer, smith, plumbing, joiner, and carpentering work. Here they make their own machinery, which is used in the different tobacco processes. They have steam saw mills, where they cut up logs of cedar, from which they make their own cigar boxes…and the paper boxes which are used for cigarettes are also made upon the premises’.
  8. John Wallace, Watercolour of pipes of North America (1891) used to illustrate Pipes and Meerschaum, 1892.
    • Fraser and Wallace were keen to ensure accuracy in any contributions they made to the history of tobacco and the paraphernalia of smoking. To this end Wallace travelled to the Blackmore Museum, Salisbury in November 1891 to do a series of watercolours of items from the pipe collection for a proposed publication to be called ‘Pipes and Meershaum’. On 14 November Wallace wrote to Fraser to say: ‘I think of doing two pages (coloured) of these ancient stone pipes. One page is well advanced though I cannot get a very long day at them, as the light fails about 4 o’clock…I find it pretty tedious working them up on such a small scale and taking longer than I like’. Four days later Wallace wrote again: ‘By the way, Dr Blackmore, brother of the founder looks in occasionally and gives me information and looks up books that may assist – how would it do to give him a set of the [Smoke Room] Booklets? You might send me a few cigarettes for the curator, he does not smoke anything stronger. I give him a cigar occasionally, but they induce a headache’. As ‘Pipes and Meerschaum’ was the title of three Smoke Room Booklets that detailed the varieties of pipe used around the world it is possible that
    • Fraser intended to offer sets of Wallace’s illustrations for sale to accompany these three booklets. However, there is no evidence to suggest that anything other than a few copies were produced, possibly for private circulation.
  9. John Wallace, Scrapbook of drawings and prints used in Cope’s Tobacco Plant and Smoke Room Booklets.
    • Fraser carefully kept a record of Wallace’s sketches and proofs from engraved blocks and pasted them into this scrapbook. The opening displayed shows the careworn clergyman, a figure familiar to Tobacco Plant readers as the ‘Anti-Tobaccoite’. This particular image was used to illustrate a Tobacco Plant article entitled ‘An Eccentric Annual Meeting’ in May 1872. The Anti-Tobacco Society’s meeting in Manchester was reported in mocking tones especially when it was noted that the Society recorded ‘strong feeling in favour of establishing a high-class anti-tobacco serial’ exhibiting ‘literary excellence’. Of course the Tobacco Plant reporter felt this to be ‘a complimentary allusion to ourselves’. The second illustration was used in April 1872 as a headpiece to a poem entitled ‘How to Cope with Care’. Faced with various problems the overburdened gentleman cries: ‘For mercy’s sake a weed! – and Cope’s Tobacco Plant’.


John Fraser and the Writers

Not content to fill Cope’s Tobacco Plant and the Smoke Room Booklets with nuggets of tobacco lore reprinted from old and new books John Fraser commissioned a number of writers to produce articles and poetry for his publications. Perhaps the two best-known writers commissioned by Fraser were James Thomson (1834 -1882) and Richard Le Gallienne (1866-1947). Thomson was introduced to Fraser by William MacCall, himself a contributor to the Tobacco Plant. From 1875 Thomson provided articles on a number of subjects including tobacco smuggling, tobacco legislation, Ben Jonson, and George Meredith, as well as reviews of books. Thomson described the Tobacco Plant as ‘one of the most daring and original publications of the day, a periodical which actually loves literature, though it has to make this subordinate to the Herb Divine’. With reference to John Fraser Thomson wrote: ‘the editor is an admirable one to have dealings with; payment is fair and regular’. Richard Le Gallienne, a native of Liverpool, was introduced to Fraser by Walter Lewin in 1889. Le Gallienne had already privately published a book of poems, My Ladies Sonnets, in 1887 and was a reviewer for The Academy. Le Gallienne’s work for Fraser included poems, an introductory piece on Carlyle, and other literary work for several of Cope’s Smoke Room Booklets. In 1892 Le Gallienne moved to London and took up the position of reader for Elkin Mathews and John Lane at the Bodley Head, probably the most fashionable publishing house of the 1890’s.

As a bibliophile Fraser collected examples of the ‘new ideals in printing’ from the private presses and publishers such as the Bodley Head and Heinemann. He allied Cope’s publications with these luxury items by producing the Smoke Room Booklets in large paper copies and to amuse the discerning collector he also parodied the advertisements of publishers known for their ‘artistic’ publications.

  1. James Thomson (1834 -1882), Engraved Portrait from a photograph taken in 1869.
    • George William Foote gives an affectionate account of Thomson: ‘He possessed…black hair and beard, and grey-blue eyes. The eyes were fine and wonderfully expressive…When not suffering from depression he was the life of the company. He was the most brilliant talker…a fine companion in a day’s walk, and a shining figure at the festive table or in the social drawing-room. But you enjoyed his conversation most when you sat with him alone, taking occasional draughts of our national beverage, and constantly burning the divine weed’. Thomson’s biographer noted that ‘Thomson’s love of literature was almost equalled by his love of smoking, so the task of writing for the Tobacco Plant was a thoroughly congenial one.’ Thomson himself declared that ‘I have not had to violate my conscience by writing what I don’t believe, for I do believe in Tobacco’.
  2. James Thomson’s manuscript of his poem ‘The Pilgrimage to Saint Nicotine of the Holy Herb’ written to accompany the Key for ‘Modern Pilgrims’, Cope’s Card for 1878.
    • James Thomson was commissioned by Fraser to write the poem sent to subscribers to the Tobacco Plant along with the ‘Modern Pilgrims’ card and key. At Fraser’s urging Thomson noted that he had ‘put on full steam, spinning out from seventy to a hundred lines a day’. In the late 1870’s Thomson relied on Fraser for commissions remarking at the end of 1878 that: ‘I am pretty busy for Fraser; and as well for me that it is so, for I have not earned a penny save from him the whole year. There is more work to do on verse and prose for the Christmas card, but not so much as last year, nor offering such genial opportunities and associations as “Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrims”. The subject this time is the “Pursuit of Diva Nicotina” in imitation of Sir Noel Paton’s “Pursuit of Pleasure”.
  3. Richard Le Gallienne (1866-1947), Portrait by R.Wilson Steer, 1894.
    • J. Lewis May, then the stock boy at the Bodley Head, was quite overwhelmed by the artistic appearance of Le Gallienne describing ‘his pale chiselled features, shadowed by long, wavy, raven-black hair’ and the fact that ‘he affected a style of dress designed as far as possible to indicate his aloofness from the common herd. He wore, like the Scholar Gipsy, a hat of antique shape and…his coat was of dark green velvet’. May noted that it ‘seemed strange…that one so preternaturally beautiful should travel to and from his home…in mundane omnibuses and trains’.
  4. Richard Le Gallienne’s manuscript for his poem ‘The Happy Smoking Ground’
    • Le Gallienne completed this poem on the 9th of April 1890. Fraser paid him two guineas for his work and first used the poem in the Smoker’s Garland III, the tenth Smoke Room Booklet.
  5. Proof of a cover for Society Verse.
    • During 1891 Le Gallienne worked on an essay entitled ‘Society Verse’ which he ‘treated quite seriously as a vital, however fragile form of art’. Although intended as a Smoke Room Booklet it was never published.
  6. 6. The Yellow Book, London, 1894
    • The first number of the notorious periodical The Yellow Book, published by the Bodley Head in 1894 to the exultation of the aesthetes and the rage of many reviewers included in its first number an article on that most stylish virtue, smoking. Lionel Johnson, a friend of Richard Le Gallienne wrote an essay entitled ‘Tobacco Clouds’ in which he paid homage to the power of tobacco to induce relaxation and contemplation: ‘taking the little things of time with grateful relish and a mind at rest…these grey and blue clouds, of tobacco smoke, pass up to the air, and away upon the wind; incense of a goodly savour, cheering the thoughts of my heart, before passing away, to disappear at last.’
  7. 7. Advertisements for Cope’s c.1893-1894
    • In 1890 James McNeill Whistler published his book The Gentle Art of Making Enemies. Its design was modern and idiosyncratic with an asymmetrical arrangement of the text in a title page designed by Whistler himself. Wallace’s parody, including a caricature of Whistler, was used to advertise Cope’s Mixture, the eighth Smoke Room Booklet, subtitled The Gentle Art of Advertising. In his preface Fraser wrote approvingly of the fashion for including advertisements in literary publications and noted mischievously that, ‘we may yet see this admirable feature adopted for books also: “Editions de luxe”, embellished with portraits, illuminated initials and – advertisements; the productions of the Kelmscott Press with notices of Cackle’s pills and Crabapple’s soap at the foot of the pages’.
    • In his parody of Aubrey Beardsley’s advertisement for The Yellow Book printed on paper of a fashionably jaundiced hue, Wallace included the Cope’s trademark jester and a caricature of what appears to be a beardless John Fraser.


Cope’s Smoke Room Booklets

These fourteen pocket–sized booklets published between 1890 and 1894 contained a mixture of articles that initially appeared in Cope’s Tobacco Plant and specially commissioned pieces. The first in the series was a reprint of The Smoker’s Textbook by John Hamer. In addition to the ordinary edition some of the titles were published in a deluxe edition printed on handmade paper that bore the Cope’s jester as a watermark. With reference to these fine productions the prospectus for the Smoke Room Booklets included the following note: ‘an edition on English hand-made paper with special copyright watermark, wide margins, edges uncut…will be issued for that choice and select band known variously as booklovers, bookworms, bibliophiles, bibliomaniacs…who would never desecrate a book or waste their time by reading it. This edition will be strictly limited and each copy authenticated by at least one real printer’s thumb mark without which none are genuine’. The thirteenth Smoke Room Booklet is devoted to Ruskin. Fraser, an admirer of John Ruskin’s work, had reviewed Fors Clavigera in Cope’s Tobacco Plant commenting that: ‘We can easily imagine how many cigars would have smoked more pleasantly, and how their perfume would have been enriched, had they been associated with the perusal of Mr Ruskin’s pages’. Unfortunately, this ‘guide to the study of Fors Clavigera’ with an introduction by Walter Lewin became a source of some difficulty for Fraser when Ruskin sued Cope’s for infringement of copyright. Cope’s agreed to withdraw all copies of the booklet from circulation and no other action was taken. The defending barrister noted that ‘Mr Ruskin is a non-smoker and that may perhaps have made him a little more bitter against the Defendants’.


Cope’s Tobacco Factory

A scrapbook of press cuttings collected by John Fraser for a decade from 1870 contains a number of articles that describe visits paid by journalists to Cope’s Tobacco Factory. A visitor from The Glasgow News in July 1880 gave the following account of the exterior: ‘Viewed from Lime Street one gets sight of a solid substantial building, three storeys high, whose front presents an architectural harmony of plinths, corbels, architraves, mouldings, wooden doors, and large lofty windows…The end next to Lime Street is ornamented with a handsome tower, rising up to a considerable height above the parapet of the main building and covered by a high-pitched slated roof, on which there is placed a spirelet, surmounted by a large weather vane. The entrance doorway is on the Lord Nelson Street side of the tower, the space over the entrance is divided into three panels, and is filled in with sgraffito work , which Messrs. Trollope & Sons, of London, are making so popular in architecture throughout the country.’


The Cigar Room at Cope’s

In October 1875 a journalist from The Sheffield Post had visited the ‘massive and imposing building’ of Cope’s on Lord Nelson Street and after touring the tobacco store, the cavendish press and roll spinning room, the cutting room, the stoving room, and the packing room, he reached the cigar-making room which he described in some detail as:

‘A large well-ventilated and well lighted room, in which upwards of a thousand respectably attired girls are seated at long rows of low tables busily making cigars…pleasant snatches of melody arise from various parts of the spacious room. Talking and even singing are allowed, but…work is not neglected. The workers are paid piece work…Each girl is furnished with so much leaf to make a hundred cigars…the worker takes a certain quantity of leaf and rolls it with her hands into a rough shape: this is the “fillings” or inside of a cigar. Then…she cuts a strip of more perfect leaf and winds it round as a sort of wrapper… Cope Bros. have patented and adopted an excellent contrivance for getting exact uniformity of size and shape in their cigars. After the cigars are made by hand they are put in these moulds and kept for some time in a press…the ends are then cut off by means of a gauge, and then they are sent to the foreman who inspects them and casts out any inferior samples. These are deducted from the number sent in, and the remainder are placed to the credit of the workwoman…Exceedingly good wages are earned by some of these girls, the more expert of them averaging 25s. and sometimes 27s. per week.


Cope’s Cards

From 1874 Cope’s published a card issued free to subscribers to the Tobacco Plant, and usually published in February. Designed by John Wallace the cards were large, full colour lithographs depicting a topical or fanciful scene peopled with caricatures of politicians and celebrities. A key to the figures, including an explanation in prose or poetry, was also issued for those wishing to derive full enjoyment from a card.

Although intended for Christmas 1873 the first card was published in February 1874. The genial form of Father Christmas is shown smoking ‘two monstrous meerschaum pipes…carved in the semblance of human faces significant of the highest stages of satirical enjoyment’. The key explained that the card shows ‘the world’s chiefs gathered for one amicable hour in the wigwam of nations’. The anti-tobaccoites are tormented by a jester, a knight, and imps while caricatures of artists, writers, and politicians make up ‘the panorama of the pipe fumes’.

The card issued in 1875 took the form of a calendar. The key explains that ‘Old Time…the perennial sage enfolds the world in the blue, curling fumes from his peace pipe’ and Disraeli is ‘the great god Pan’ who ‘charms all nature with his tuneful pipes’. Around the edge of the card is ‘the borderland of living biography’ that ‘lies just outside the full charm of Pan’s bewitching pipes’. The central scene shows ‘the magic circle where all are ruled, whether they will or not, by the sweet influences of Benjamin Disraeli’.

‘Cope’s Arctic Card’ issued in February 1877 shows in its border ‘in vivid allegory, the history of the many expeditions that in former days have striven for the Arctic Prize’. The main scene depicts the celebration as the artist imagined it would have been if Sir George Nares had enjoyed a successful expedition and ‘brought the pole home’. The commentary on this card in the Tobacco Plant concluded by stating that: ‘for ourselves, we could be content if the expedition, failing in all else, had but realised the little picture that “Pipeshank” has drawn at the foot of his cartoon. It were pleasant to think of our old Friend the Anti-Tobaccoite left behind in the Silent North, in the congenial company of the Walrus and the Polar Bear. The artist is right – the Bear would be by far the jollier member of the select society. He might “pipe” but our Anti would never dance’.

‘The Peerless Pilgrimage to Saint Nicotine of the Holy Herb’ shows sixty-five modern pilgrims on their way to Saint Nicotinus, ‘with smile ineffable, and full of blandest benison…with pipes galore, and snuff-box near his heart; with fragrant circlet of the golden cloud around his kindly brows’.


Prints from Fraser’s Collection

Fraser’s collection of books and printed ephemera is complemented by a small number of prints depicting those engaged in the act of smoking. Of the two selected for display one is a print, ‘The Joys of Smoking’, from the seventeenth century after a painting by David Teniers, and the other is a nineteenth century print presenting the scene of one of Sir Walter Raleigh's servants throwing a jug of water over his master as he was smoking.

Physical exhibitions  

Current physical exhibition in SC&A

On exhibition elsewhere

  • Cunard posters are on display in the VG&M exhibition: Travel in Style – Iconic Cunard Advertising in the 1920s and 1930s
  • Alex Wedding, Eddie and the Gipsy, 1935 is on display in the Holocaust Galleries, Imperial War Museum, London
  • Rose Heilbron student notebooks are on display 22 July - December 2023 in the Lancashire Archives exhibition Shaping the Future: Women's Lives in Lancashire 1950-1980 in their brand new exhibition space at Preston

Past physical exhibitions in SC&A