Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The Tobacco Barn
In the Virginia Piedmont, tobacco ruled the economy from colonial times well into the 20th century.
Tobacco plants were harvested whole. In preparation for curing, they were split lengthwise from the top and hung upside down on 5 foot long oak sticks called laths. The laths, holding 6-8 plants each, were suspended across poles in the tobacco barn. Every step of the process was undertaken with great care so as not to bruise or tear the valuable leaves. The leaves were cured for several days over small wood fires built on the dirt floor of the barn. This phase was often overseen by itinerant curers who traveled from farm to farm in autumn. The following spring, when seasonal moisture had made the leaves less brittle, they were taken to a local tobacco factory. Planters hired out their slaves to these factories to stem, cut and shape the tobacco into plugs and twists for chewing, the popular form of tobacco consumption at the time.
Booker T. Washington National Park