“Half and Half”: A Look at Japanese Tobacco Practices at the Kooskia Internment Camp

Hello everyone! My name is Josh Allen and I will be doing research into the smoking and tobacco related artifacts found at Kooskia Internment Camp. I am a 3rd year undergraduate here at UI. As I am currently interested in studying historical archaeology the Kooskia project is right up my alley. My interest in studying the tobacco products at the site started with trying to think about how the internees were using western items to continue Japanese cultural practices during internment. Since I was part of the student team that worked on the Kooskia I remembered that a can with a partial label was found in one of the excavation units. Along with the partial label there were also a few plastic pipe or cigarette mouth pieces found in an excavation unit. I am curious if the internees were using American cigarettes and pipes or more traditional Japanese tobacco products during their stay at Kooskia.

Metal can found at the Kooskia Internment Camp

On first glance at the tobacco label I thought that the small red circle advertising “Burley and Bright” was a brand name. After some preliminary research into tobacco history itself I discovered that instead of a brand name, “Burley and Bright” referred to the type of tobacco included in the can. Burley refers to a darker cut of tobacco and Bright refers to the lighter cut. (Goodman 2004:277-281)  This also explains the “Half and Half” label across the front. This particular can was produced by the American Tobacco Company which declined in the late 20th century.(Gilman, Xun 2005:76-83) Where this can was produced, how much it cost, and how much of this brand was ordered by the camp are a few of the questions still to be answered about this artifact. Hopefully further research into Japanese cultural tobacco practices will bring to light why the internees may have preferred this specific type of tobacco or if they had a choice in what kind was ordered.

The two pipe pieces recovered during excavation have helped complete the picture of tobacco use at Kooskia. These two pieces which were originally thought to be just pipe mouth pieces could have been used as cigarette holders as well. There are several photos of Japanese internees smoking cigarettes although none of them seem to be using plastic cigarette holders. I am still in the process of researching these mouth pieces, but after looking through the photo albums a picture of a few men drinking beer in the camp’s cantina shows tobacco pipes for sale on the counter. This is extremely helpful because it shows at least some of the pipes that were used in the camp and it can help me eventually identify the type of pipes being used.

The Kooskia Internment Camp Cantina. Image courtesy of the University of Idaho's Special Collections.

The next step I am going to take in researching these artifacts is to go into one of the smoke shops around town and see if they still sell anything like the ones recovered from the site. This may help me better define their use and importance to the Kooskia internees.

References

Gilman, L Sander, and Zhou Xun

2004 Smoke. Hong Kong: Reaktion Books

Goodman, Jorden

2005 Tobacco In History and Culture Vol 1.London: Thomson Gale

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