Brown Bag Lecture: “‘Quality Tobacco’: The Making of the Concept and the Crop”

Brown Bag Lecture icon
Date: November 6, 2012
Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Open to the Public
Fee: Free
RSVP Online: No Registration Required

A talk by Sarah Milov

What does “quality” mean for an addictive, cancer-causing product? As the cigarette faced medical scrutiny in the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s, farmers, domestic cigarette manufacturers, and USDA officials argued over this very question. To define quality, each group invoked its own notions of expertise. Cigarette companies cited the results of “taste panels” conducted by “expert smokers”; agriculture officials pointed to chemical analyses performed at land grant colleges; and farmers defended the quality of their crop by pointing to their historical reputation as skilled producers and impugning the motives of their detractors. Ultimately, debates over quality were scuttled by the need for the entire tobacco trade to maintain a unified front against antismoking activists. Sarah Milov’s talk will highlight the constructed, chimerical notion of  “quality,” suggesting that taste cannot be divorced from the political and institutional context of the cigarette’s descent from a luxury good into an economic bad.

Sarah Milov is a doctoral candidate in the history department at Princeton University. Her dissertation is entitled “Little Tobacco: The Business and Bureaucracy of Tobacco Farming in North Carolina, 1920–1980.” In it, she places farmers at the center of the history of the cigarette, arguing that farmers produced not only tobacco but also new systems of marketing, interest-group organizations, and discourse. At Princeton her work has been supported by the Program in American Studies and the Society of Woodrow Wilson Scholars. She will defend in 2013.

About Brown Bag Lectures

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of weekly informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of CHF staff and fellows and interested members of the public.

For more information, please call 215.873.8289 or e-mail

Register for an event link

Need Meeting Space?

CHF’s state-of-the-art conference center is in Philadelphia’s beautiful historic district.

Brown Bag Lecture Series

Enjoy a bring-your-own brown-bag lunch while listening to CHF scholars share their research.

Fellowships at CHF

CHF’s scholars, who spend anywhere from one to nine months in residence, form a vital part of CHF’s intellectual life.

Support CHF

Help us preserve and share the history of chemistry and related sciences. Make a tax-deductible tax-deductible gift online.