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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Thomas Henderson, October 28, 1999. Interview K-0228. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Tobacco regulation during the New Deal

In this excerpt, Henderson explains how during the 1930s, the tobacco industry came under the regulation of federal government. Describing how this entailed allotment and the establishment of gradation, Hederson recalls this as a positive move that was ultimately a "money making proposition." His comments serve to shed light on the ways in which federal regulation helped to stabilize a major southern industry during the years of the Great Depression.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Thomas Henderson, October 28, 1999. Interview K-0228. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

We're still in the 1930s around the New Deal Program. I'd love to hear you talk some about what you remember about Roosevelt's tobacco program starting. I mean, before that there was tobacco, right? How did it begin to go into stabilization and all of that?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well, that was a-that was a-that was under Roosevelt. And they called it the co-op. And it was set up under the Department of Agriculture. Each county had a Department of Agriculture business. And they supported the tobacco program. They got a grading program. And once they got to grading tobacco. And each put their grade-that represented what that tobacco would-the government would pay for it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And you could buy a dollar more and the companies could buy it. Some of it they didn't want and it went to the government. Other part of it they paid way over more than that because it was in demand. That was the kind that was in demand. But the times-during the hard times-the government was giving as much as twenty-five percent of the tobacco [unclear] . And so they had redried-and tobacco was redried. And they would sell it to the companies that wanted it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Now the allotment program started about the same time.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
That's right. And that-so they could control it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. Because there was beginning to be too much production when the government bought it.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
That's right. It got to be-it got to be a big thing. But they are managed-it was handled very well, I think, because they sold that tobacco to anybody that wanted to buy it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And it was-it paid for itself. And-
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And this was the stabilization-
THOMAS HENDERSON:
That was stabilization. And they had the grading service there. They graded this tobacco after it fell on the floor.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
This was in Raleigh or just everywhere?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Every tobacco market had the graders.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And they was grading before we bought it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And they had support. For instance, a B3F would have a fifty-four cents that would support the fifty-four cents. If it didn't bring in fifty-four cents, it went to the stabilization.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And it worked because eventually the tobacco companies would need that tobacco and have to buy it.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Sometimes they would need it or they would sell it sometimes to foreign customers.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh, okay. I see.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Where it was wanted. And it was not a losing money proposition. It was a money making proposition.