Here’s a wild story. Jenn Lang from Stevens Point, Wisconsin had bought her new home one year ago. Her home though was built in the early 1880’s and its owner back then did a weird thing.
Jenn uncovered the baffling find when she went to fix the crumbling plaster in her dining room walls. Upon her discovery there was a full unopened can of Prince Albert Pipe Tobacco. Now that alone would be interesting, but can you believe there were 87 more unopened cans in the wall too?
“I’ve found that’s the most impressive way to tell the story,” Jenn laughs.
What confused Jenn most is why did someone seal up all of those cans in the wall?
It was a week ago when Jenn and her boyfriend Shane Varga were working on the dining room. They were pulling off the old worn out wallpaper when Shane noticed a red, metal can. He reached in and pulled out the can. He then pulled out another and another until there were 18 piles of metal tins stacked up on the kitchen table.
There was also a program from a local play dated April 18, 1918 and a mail in coupon for 12 free packs of cigarette rolling papers.
“They were stacked from about the middle of the wall all the way down to the floor. I don’t think there would have been a way for the owner to get at the cans unless they broke the plaster and removed the laths,” Jenn explained.
These tobacoo cans can be purchased at antique shops or on eBay. Prince Albert’s stately image is on the front, above the words: “Crimp cut long burning pipe and cigarette tobacco.” The tax stamp says: “Factory No. 256, 5th District, August 1918.”
“The tobacco inside looks and even smells normal”, Jenn said, though she doesn’t feel anyone would want to light it up after 94 years and she’s not a smoker anyway.
Prince Albert tobacco was first sold in 1907 from a company called R. J. Reynolds. They in turn sold the company to John Middleton in 1987. You can still buy Prince Albert tobacco, but it comes in foil and cardboard instead of a metal tin.
Jenn wanted to find out more about the original owner so she went to the Portage County Public Library in Stevens Point. As luck would have it the Librarian was Wendall Nelson and he once wrote a book about old homes in their town called “Houses That Grew” and Jenn’s house was one of the homes featured.
Now the burning question was “Why would someone hide 88 cans of tobacco in the wall?” Perhaps his wife did not approve of his smoking and hid them? Possibly this was a strange way of hording?
There is another theory. Maybe someone was trying to quit smoking and put the tobacco in the wall to deter from trying to retrieve it.
Jenn finally decided to call the women who lived there before her for 55 years. Jenn learned that the previous owner also found several tins of tobacco in the kitchen and dining room.
“She thinks it was old Dr. Cutting who left tobacco all around the house, but why, she doesn’t know,” Wendell said. Inside and around the house is one thing, but catacombed into the walls is something else entirely.
Jenn had told her boyfriend that she hoped to find something interesting in the walls of the old house.
“The dining room is the first room I started in, so maybe if they hid one thing in the walls, there will be more treasures in other rooms,” she said. Jenn plans to sell or get rid of many of the 88 tobacco containers.
“I will probably keep some of the tins,” she said, “and I’ll have to hear ‘Do you have Prince Albert in a can?’ jokes for the rest of my life.”
Greg Elam –
Content Writer – Windy City Cigars