Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Tobacco Auction

"Tobacco Auction"
16x20 oil on canvas
For many, many years, tobacco was sold at auction. Many towns across Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia had tobacco warehouses where the crop was brought to be sold in November and December. During the 1990s, Pa co-owned and ran a tobacco warehouse. It is closed now, but this movie clip was taken at one of the last auctions there.

For some reason, the Quicktime movie above may not be visible on an iPad, so here's a photo. 
But you'll miss the chant of the auctioneer saying,
"SOLD to Phillip Morris!"

While the auctioneer had the most vocal job at a tobacco auction, the man behind him had the most difficult one. The ticket marker listened to the chant and recorded the buyer, the price and the grade of each pile of tobacco. He wrote that information on the ticket, all the while listening to the auctioneer selling the next pile. That took a lot of concentration and an assistant to place the tickets on the piles.

Due to federal legislation, tobacco is now contracted with the tobacco companies before it is grown. At the end of the year, it is delivered to a receiving station run by the company. Farmers receive payment for their year of hard work, but somehow it's just not as exciting. The romance of the auction is a thing of the past.

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