Here’s a wild story. Jenn Lang from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, had bought her new home one year ago. Though her home was built in the early 1880s, 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 Tobacco. Now that alone would be interesting, but can you believe there were 87 more unopened cans on the wall?
“I’ve found that’s the most impressive way to tell the story,” Jenn laughs. What confused Jenn most was 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 in the dining room. They were pulling off the old worn-out wallpaper when Shane noticed a red metal could. He reached in and pulled out the can. He then pulled out another until 18 piles of metal tins were 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 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 tobacco 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 is not a smoker anyway.
Prince Albert tobacco was first sold in 1907 by 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 learn 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 disapproved of his smoking and hid them. Possibly this was a strange way of holding. There is another theory. Maybe someone was trying to quit smoking and put the tobacco on 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 catacombs into the walls are something else entirely.
Jenn had told her boyfriend that she hoped to find something interesting in the old house walls. “The dining room is the first room I started in, so maybe if they hid one thing in the walls, there would 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.”