Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco, perhaps West Virginia’s most famous consumer product, was made by Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company. The company began with brothers Aaron and Samuel Bloch, who ran a small grocery and dry goods store in 1879 in Wheeling. They also had a small cigar factory on the second floor. Noticing that men chewed the cigar wrapper clippings, the Blochs conceived the idea of flavoring the scrap cuttings that were left over from cigar making and selling it in paper bags as chewing tobacco. The flood of 1884 destroyed the store, and the Blochs decided to focus exclusively on tobacco products.
The brothers were progressive employers. In 1890, many of their workers joined the Tobacco Workers Union, with which the company cooperated. Bloch Brothers had a health plan and established an eight-hour day and five-day week before these reforms were generally adopted. Aaron was succeeded by his brother, Samuel, as president in 1902. Samuel served until passing the company on to his son, Jesse A. Bloch, an influential state senator.
Jesse Bloch was president of the company from 1937 to 1947. During his tenure, the company expanded by acquiring the Pollack Crown stogie and the Penn Tobacco Company. Jesse’s son, Thomas, continued as head of the company, adding the firm of Christian Peper Tobacco Company and its line of pipe tobacco products to the mixtures being made in Wheeling. Bloch Brothers was sold in 1969 to the General Cigar and Tobacco Company, which became a division of Culbro in 1978. The company was acquired by the Helme Tobacco Company in 1983 and now uses the name Swisher International. Mail Pouch, described by tobacco chewers as drier and not as sweet as some other chewing tobaccos, remains a popular product.
This Article was written by Katherine M. Jourdan
Last Revised on December 27, 2010