American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory, Exhibit Object Focus

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Romeo chewing tobacco label

St. Louis: James Moran and Co
James Moran & Co.'s Romeo, fine cut, chewing tobacco
St. Louis: James Moran and Co., 1873
Prints & Photographs Division (23)

The first recorded production of a Shakespeare play in America was an amateur Romeo and Juliet in 1730 in New York City. This tragic account of "star-crossed lovers" remains one of the most popular and well-known Shakespearean plays, as demonstrated by numerous popular film adaptations. The appearance of Shakespearean characters on a tobacco label demonstrates the popularity of certain plays among all American social levels in the nineteenth century, when many Americans chewed, dipped, and smoked tobacco that came packaged with illustrated, colorful labels designed to attract consumers in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

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