Bull Shit! Good Till the Last Puff

In my summer camp, one of our favorite break activities was a card game called “Bull Shit!” It was all about calling your opponents’ bluffs, and screaming “Bull Shit!” as often as possible. Hmm, I wonder why the counselors didn’t like us…

“Bull Shit!” is one of those inventions of American slang that makes our language so endearing. Allegedly, Leonid Tarassuk, former curator at the Hermitage in Leningrad and noted jokester, fell in love with this phrase when he was fighting against Soviet anti-Semitism and applying to leave the country. It became his favorite slogan, according to Soviet Jewry activist Fabian Kolker, and he stamped it on every visa request the government denied. At some point, he even wore a belt with “Bullshit” engraved on the buckle.

But this pack of cigarettes takes the cake for Bull Shit ingenuity. The label features a bull, you guessed it, fertilizing the field with a patty of his excrement. And he looks so happy, with a smile that reminds me of that look my friend’s baby makes while making a “deposit” in his diaper. This is genius advertising, because the first thing a cigarette smoker wants to be reminded of is that his tobacco was fertilized with poop.

My grandfather got a kick out of these cigarettes and used to show them off. He had a whole series of cigarette packs – including horse shit, rabbit shit, cangaroo [sic] shit, chicken shit, donky [sic] shit, and bear shit – all produced by a tobacco manufacturer in Tijuana. They were gifts from my father and a friend of the family. Yeah, they were real shitty gift-givers.

For fun, check out the text on the back of this pack in the picture below. Apparently, these were real tobacco cigarettes (as indicated by the Mexican tobacco stamp. But the manufacturer had a blast, writing “We ar[sic] happy with Our Cigarettes Shit” and “Bull Shit Cigarettes… You really taste good!…” on the side of the label. These are great gag cigarettes to show your friends, but as the pack warns, you probably wouldn’t want to give them to a young cow in love.

Turkish Floating Exhibition

Turkish Floating Exhibition

Something about a cruise is just exciting. In Baltimore, we love adventures on the Chesapeake Bay, whether we’re spending a day as a pirate with Urban Pirates, watching the cannons fired off the USS Constellation, or taking my students crabbing on the Lady Maryland. So I imagine that if a ship with exotic music and art from Turkey showed up in the harbor, a lot of Baltimoreans would check it out.

In the 19th and early 20th century, if you wanted to learn about cultures and technological advances around the world, you could go to a World’s Fair, where countries would host booths and pavilions featuring everything from belly dancers to the Ferris Wheel. Turkey took the idea further and, in 1926, developed a “Floating Exhibition” to showcase Turkey’s modern culture and business at port cities around Europe.

The Baltimore Sun reported on July 25th that, “Beautiful Turkish women gowned in Paris modes and emancipated from the veils of former years added a feminine touch to a reception held on the Kara-Deniz at Havre during the stay of a floating exhibition of Turkish goods and products, the first of its kind ever seen in European waters.”

In 1954, the Turkish government launched a new display with the SS Tarsus. The ship (originally the SS Exochorda) had previously operated in the Caribbean as an export liner. During WWII, the US Navy purchased it (renaming it the USS Harry Lee), using it in both the Caribbean and Pacific theaters. (Read the full history of the ship here.) By 1954, Turkey was still trying to secure its place in an emerging Cold War world, and it took the ship for a new Floating Exhibition, showcasing Turkey’s immense value and potential. Just six years later, a freak three-ship collision destroyed the Tarsus.

Many American tobacco companies packed their cigarettes with “Turkish” tobacco, which is a strand of the tobacco crop species. The Floating Exhibition featured genuine Turkish-made cigarettes. I’m curious if they taste different… but I’m not curious enough to light up a 60-year-old cigarette!

Turkish Floating Exhibition (Turkish)

I haven’t figured out what influenced the artwork on this pack, but it’s quite lovely, even a bit psychedelic if you stare at it for too long: a flower with a red center surrounded by white petals and surrounding blue petals.

The pack is for sale at my store: http://cigarettecollector.net/2016/06/08/turkish-floating-exhibition-1954-70mm-vintage-turkish-cigarette-pack/

The Turkish Floating Exhibition set sail most recently in 2011. But I’m afraid the SS Tarsus didn’t take part. Just six years after the 1954 exhibit, it was destroyed in a freak three-ship collision.


P.S. Ships make great classrooms. Take your children (or, in my case, students) out on the water, raise a sail, inspect the water, catch some seafood. If you come to Baltimore, check out the Living Classroom’s Lady Maryland.


WWII Poster – “Rumors Cost Us Lives” – Features Shady Smoker

Rumors Cost Us Lives

Imagine you walk into the general store, as the postman brings Mrs. Smith a letter:

“A letter from your boy, Mrs. Smith. What’s the news from the boys at the front?” A shady fellow in the back of the store perks up his ears, listening into the latest gossip. “Oh, mostly quiet exercises. Thankfully not much action. But he says he’s looking forward to seeing the girls in Versailles once his division breaks through.” Everyone shares a good laugh and raises three cheers for the boys in arms.

One week later, Mrs. Smith receives another letter, this time from the Army, informing her that her boy died in an air attack outside Versailles.

“Rumors Cost Us Lives” was a mantra of the home front during WWII, with the suspicion that American bars and alleyways were filled with enemy agents eager to catch gossip about the soldiers and use it against them.

My grandfather’s letters home were very detailed – talking about his buddies and the ladies – while he was still in Texas training for the war. But once he got to the Pacific, he had to watch his words carefully.

Americans were accustomed to speaking freely and carelessly, and that left our soldiers vulnerable. According to the Library of Congress’ exhibit “Margaret Mead: Human Nature and the Power of Culture,” social scientists worked with the government on a campaign to promote caution in describing anything about the front. The effort produced a number of posters and films disseminated across the country.

Rumors Cost Us Lives
Rumors cost us lives.. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc180/. Accessed June 6, 2016.

I came across the “Rumors Cost Us Lives” poster while I was creating a new page for WWII-era cigarette packs in my cigarette collector store – check it out here – and I was absolutely blown away by the picture. The smoking man in a bowler hat is a perfect undercover agent. He’s shady inside and out, with the brim of his hat literally casting a shadow over half his face. Hand to his ear, cigarette burning down, he hears all. Who knows what he does with what he learns? A menacing newspaper clipping at the bottom reveals the outcome: the information was passed to a German U-Boat Captain who destroyed the Allied vessel and laughed as he torpedoed the survivors’ life boat!

Nowadays, with WikiLeaks and traitors like Edward Snowden, it’s a miracle our army is able to keep any secrets. Modern spies seem to hang out in chat rooms and hacker dens rather than bars and general stores. In the war against terrorism, watch what you type about our soldiers.

(For more information on this poster, see the Library of Congress Website: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/93505049/)

For more fun:




American Cultural Influence on Norwegian Cigarettes, part 1

When it comes to cigarettes, symbols of American culture pop up everywhere, sometimes in the strangest of ways. My grandfather’s two Norwegian cigarette packs – a Tiedemanns Teddy and a South State Specially Toasted – tell intriguing tales of the ties binding Norway and America.

Short of the Vikings’ discovery of the New World several centuries before Columbus, not much about Scandinavia appears in your standard US History textbook. You might find some all-too-brief praise for the Danish resistance in WWII, which protected nearly all Danish Jews from the Nazi terror. (Read further: The US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s “Rescue in Denmark.”)

Swedish culture made it to America in the form of ABBA’s timeless pop music (revived by the great Meryl Streep in the 2008 film Mamma Mia!). Norway emerges on the American scene at least once a year – sometimes stirring more than a bit of controversy – announcing the Nobel Peace Prize.

But these cigarettes tell a richer story. First up is Tiedemanns Teddy. Tiedemanns was founded way back in 1778 and thrived in the Oslo tobacco boom of the early 20th century. (See ThorNews’ Up in Smoke: Norwegian Tobacco History.)

Theodore Roosevelt aboard the "Queen Maud" in Norway
Theodore Roosevelt aboard the “Queen Maud” in Norway. 1910 Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site. http://www.theodorerooseveltcenter.org/Research/Digital-Library/Record.aspx?libID=o283108. Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library. Dickinson State University.

A few years after US President Teddy Roosevelt visited Norway in 1910 to claim his Oslo Peace Prize, Tiedemanns introduced the “Teddy” brand. According to Keri Youngstrand’s post on the Teddy Roosevel Center, the American President especially enjoyed the newly-enthroned King Haakon and his family, especially Little Prince Olav.

Some of the packs bore an image (see below) of the Bull Moose himself. An image from the Norsk Folkemuseum shows the slogan “Tiedemanns Teddy Allemans Venn” (Tiedemanns Teddy Everyone’s Friend).

Roosevelt had a way of looking friendly and ready for a fight at the same time, and the classic Teddy cigarette image captures him wonderfully. Cigarette in hand – after all, it is a cigarette pack! – the President seems to be welcoming Norway to taste the cigarettes. He’s all smiles with that wide grin and fashionable monocle. But be careful that you don’t breathe a word against their flavor. If you do, his fist is already in a ball and he’s got a mean right hook!

*Check back later this week for Part Two, featuring South State Cigarettes and the Deep River Boys!

Tiedemanns Teddy, from the Norsk Folkmuseum in Oslo, Noway
Tiedemanns Teddy, from the Norsk Folkmuseum in Oslo, Noway