K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


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empty tobacco bag with string.

Empty tobacco bag with string. (North Carolina Collection gallery, UNC libraries. More about the photograph)

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Related pages

  • Primary source letters lesson plan: This is one of a series of activities that will help educators use the Tobacco Bag Stringing project...
  • Letter activity two: Read the three short letters of March 31, 1939, April 1, 1939, and April 7, 1939. Who wrote each of the...
  • Tobacco bag stringing: Elementary activity three: In this activity for grades 3–6, students will read and evaluate primary source letters from the Tobacco Bag Stringing collection. This should be done after Activity one, which is the introductory activity about tobacco bag stringing.

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In the late 1800s and early 1900s, tobacco was an important crop. It was grown in many sections of North Carolina and Virginia. Many workers also worked in tobacco factories. Some of the tobacco was made into cigarettes and some was left loose so that the people who smoked could make their own cigarettes. The loose tobacco was kept in small cloth bags – tobacco bags. Tobacco companies hired people to put strings in the top of the bags so that they could be pulled shut. These tobacco bag stringers could work in their homes.

The tobacco bag stringers made money by finishing the bags. For example, a woman who put the strings in the bags could make about 50 cents for each one thousand bags she finished.

In the 1930s, the United States was in a time called the Great Depression. During these years many people did not have jobs and they did not have much money.

For some families, the money they made from putting the strings in the tobacco bags was very important. It helped the families buy food or pay for their homes.