Berry might have used his NEH lecture to point out the complex set of factors for the poor price his grandfather got for his tobacco crop in 1907. He might even have mentioned the words “progressivism” and “cronyism,” asking his listeners to consider what role cigar makers played in lobbying Progressive era politicians to protect the cigar market from the upstart and more economical machine-rolled cigarette? But pointing up the negative roles of Progressivism, cronyism and the leviathan state in an NEH lecture funded by the leviathan federal government isn’t something you see very often.
At the time Berry’s grandfather came home empty-handed, he and other Kentucky tobacco farmers might have taken the poor price for their tobacco crop as a signal that there was an oversupply of tobacco in the U.S. market, that the tobacco boom was on hold, and that it was time to focus more of their farming efforts elsewhere.
They might also have reasonably concluded that the dip in demand had been caused by government efforts to ban cigarette sales. Perhaps some did, but the Berry family was among those who responded by blaming the Tobacco Trust and joining efforts to demand “fair” prices for their tobacco.
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