A Barn for the Ruminant
Ó Copyright, All Rights Reserved,
Barry W. Hollritt, 2009
Located east of New Stanton, Pa., this classic Mail Pouch barn is visible from
Interstate I-70. This is a road I traverse at least 9 times
a year coming east from Ohio or on my return back from art shows.
On a rainy day in May 09 I found the barn and cow that stood along the
road as an appealing scene. I had passed it before and said
in the future that a stop would be necessary. On this
particular day in May… I stopped! “A Barn for the Ruminant”
is a favorite Americana image of mine, up there with “A White Truck Well
Traveled” and my 1941 Ford fire truck from New Paltz, N.Y.
Mail Pouch Tobacco Barns, or simply Mail Pouch Barns are barns with one or more
sides painted from 1890-1992. They were advertisements done
for the West Virginia Mail Pouch chewing Tobacco Company based in Wheeling, West
Virginia (another town I pass on my treks from Ohio to the east coast).
Brothers Aaron and Samuel Block started manufacturing stogies there in
1879. Later, they started using stogie wrapper clippings as
a form of chewing tobacco, called West Virginia Mail Pouch.
The “chew” was successful and in 1890 they began to advertise their product on
the sides of business that sold it. By 1925, they moved on
to the barn advertisements and they employed painters to paint the ads and
maintain them. To me they are something similar to pub signs
in Britain! In the early 1960’s it is estimated that there
were close to 20,000 of these barns spread across 22 different states!
Some of these barns and buildings have become so prized by people that
they have actually ended up on the National Registry of Historical places. Today
there are about 2000 Mail Pouch barns still in existence! I
have always found the barns quite attractive to the eye. I
realized that the similarity of chewing (cows on their cuds, and humans on their
tobacco) had a commonality here in the countryside. Thus the
name, “A Barn for the Ruminant! On this cloudy day in Pennsylvania, that single
cow looking back at me completed my Mail Pouch Barn image inspiration.
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