Cigarette Pack Collectors' Association

                                The Story of Mail Pouch Tobacco Barns

  

    Starting in 1913, Bloch Bros. began to promote their Mail Pouch Chew by painting ads on barn-sides across the mid-West. The  barns, usually hand-painted in black or red with yellow or white capital lettering, read as follows: "Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco Treat Yourself to the Best." Sometimes they are surrounded on the left and right by a thin vertical blue border.

Initially, barn owners were paid between $1 and $2 a year for the advertisement, equivalent in 1913 dollars to about $20–$40 today. But more importantly, they received a much desired fresh coat of paint to preserve the integrity of the wood. Mail Pouch painted their message on one or two sides of the barn (depending on view-ability from the roadway) and painted the other sides of the barn any color the owner wished. Many of the barns were repainted every few years to maintain the sharp colors of the lettering.

After World War II, many of the barns were painted by Harley Warrick of Belmont County, Ohio. He once estimated that he had painted 20,000 barns in his life, spending an average of six hours on each. Warrick claimed that he always began each barn with the "E" in the word "Chew". Other barns were painted by Mark Turley, Don Shires, and several others. Their initials remain preserved on some of the barns with the date of the painting. These initials can be found on the blue border surrounding the front side, or nearer to the roof.

In 1992, the owner of Mail Pouch Tobacco at the time, Swisher International Group, decided to suspend the use of barn advertisements when Warrick retired.

In the heyday of barn advertising (c. 1900-1940) many companies paid farmers to use their barns as roadside ads, with other tobacco products (such as "Beech Nut" tobacco) and local feed and grain stores being the most common, but Mail Pouch was the only product advertised in so widespread and consistent a manner in this fashion.

      

       During his career as a Mail Pouch barn painter, Harley Warrick painted an estimated 20,000 barns. He started in 1946 when a Bloch Bros. team, which was painting his family’s dairy barn, told him that they were looking to hire a helper. At $32 a week, “it sounded better than milking 27 Jerseys twice a day” Harley told a reporter in 1997. “The first 1000 barns were a little rough but after that, I got the hang of it” he added in the same interview. Warrick died in November 2000 having just finished a touch-up on a nearby barn a few months earlier