Tobacco sold in the Yukon at the turn of the century was sold in cigar, cigarette, pipe, and plug tobacco forms. Plug tobacco is a chewing tobacco that was sold in big pressed bricks. It was made by pressing together cured tobacco leaves in a sweet, usually molasses-based, syrup. Originally this was done by hand, but by the mid-1800s tobacco leaves were pressed between large tin sheets. The resulting sheet of tobacco is cut into plugs and sold to retailers. Retailers would cut off pieces of the plug to sell to their customers. To make the measuring and cutting easier, tobacco companies supplied the stores with plug tobacco cutters.
These cutters were made of iron, and consisted of a rounded area that housed the blade, a lever that moved the blade, and a base with rule marks for cutting precise amounts. The tobacco company supplied the cutters free of charge, so usually they advertised their company on the cutter. This cutter was supplied by the Empire Tobacco Company of Granby, Quebec. Empire Tobacco was bought out by Imperial Tobacco Company in 1899. Today, the international Imperial Tobacco Company is the fourth biggest tobacco company in the world and manufactures labels such as duMaurier and Player's, among others, for the Canadian market.
The times of the Klondike Gold Rush presented great contradictions. Here in a vast natural landscape many men hauled their treasure from the ground in hopes that these riches could buy them a new life. In Dawson, where men floated around with gold pokes replete with gold dust and where bank lineups could run into hours of wait time, little comfort could be bought.
For lucky prospectors with so much wealth, few could buy the material things they desired and when available offered only at grossly inflated prices. Where Dawson lacked luxury and comfort, an abundance of vice was served daily to the gold laden and lonely men. The gold in the ground was seen by many as the proverbial money tree, a renewable source of wealth. Newly rich prospectors would spend their money as fast as they could wash it from the soil. It was not unusual for men to gamble away thousands of dollars in a night or fritter away 750$ on cigars. There was ample supply of whiskey, cigars and ladies of ill repute to occupy the men's time and to sift away their riches.
Dawson City Museum, Dawson City