Tobacco baskets were once a common utilitarian product in the tobacco markets. They have however now become popular as wall art in homes everywhere. The first baskets were made in Kentucky, but North Carolina became the primary producer of tobacco baskets by the late 1800s. Here is a brief history of the illustrious tobacco basket from Carolina Country.Tobacco was first exported from the colonies in huge wooden barrels called hogsheads. The barrels held about 1,000 pounds of the leaves. But the barrels made inspecting difficult and therefore cheating easy. The good leaves were packed on top, hiding inferior tobacco in the bottom of the barrel.R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company is credited with coming up with the idea of using large flat baskets to keep their tobacco clean in the auction houses. The warehouse floors were filthy with mud, dust and manure brought in with the mule-driven wagons as tobacco was unloaded and stacked on the floor.The baskets were made of oak that was split into strips. The oak strips were soaked in boiling soda water to make them bendable. The rim of the basket was fashioned with a double thickness of the strips. The bottoms were woven by machine, and another machine helped with putting the bottoms and the rims together. The tobacco companies purchased the baskets, and their names were stenciled on the rims.There was an art to packing a tobacco basket so that it presented the tobacco well, and so that it stayed on the basket. After tobacco was picked and graded, several leaves were bound together in what were called hands. The hands were tied onto a stick (about 35-45 hands per stick) and the sticks of tobacco were hung in the barn to cure. After curing, the tobacco was taken off the stick, packed in baskets and transported to the market. The hands were usually arranged on the basket in a circle, stems ends out for good presentation in the auction.This method of hand tying the leaves was time-consuming, and eventually the tobacco was brought to market untied, wrapped in large burlap sheets. This pretty much spelled the end for the tobacco basket market, and by 1969 the basket companies had closed.Flea markets, thrift stores, antique shops and yard sales are good places to shop for original tobacco baskets for your own decorating project.If you need a tobacco basket of your very own….you’re in luck! We have recently aquired 25 vintage tobacco baskets and are taking pre orders now! Baskets are large and square. The price is $150. Call the store at 334-756-0559 to reserve yours!