"Chew Mail Pouch - Treat Yourself to the Best"
— Wheeling National Heritage Area —
Mail Pouch is one of Wheeling's most recognizable products. Aaron and Samuel Bloch began making chewing tobacco after experimenting with "cigar scrap." This afterthought quickly became a favorite with local coal miners and soon the rest of the country took notice with the help of Mail Pouch barns. From such humble beginnings grew one of America's most easily recognizable products. Mail Pouch's rustic appeal and popular barn advertisements have become a symbol of Americana.
1. Mail Pouch Barns
Beginning in 1925, Bloch Brothers began advertising their products using the now famous Mail Pouch barn signs, featuring "CHEW MAIL POUCH - TREAT YOURSELF TO THE BEST." In 1947, the company hired painter Harley Warrick, who became synonymous with the signs. During his 35-year career, Harley painted between 16,000 and 18,000 barns. Occasionally, Harley would deliberately misspell a word and wait to see just how long it would take for people to notice. Approximately 1,000 of these barns are still standing within a 500-mile radius from Wheeling, WV.
2. "West Virginia Cole Slaw"
In 1897, Bloch Brothers introduced Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco, which became their signature product. At first, their chewing tobacco was taken from the scraps and trimmings from other tobacco products. These were mixed with molasses and other flavors, earning the nickname "West Virginia Cole Slaw." Mail Pouch tobacco has been made in Wheeling for over a century. At its zenith, the company employed hundreds of female workers and produced 120 million packages of Mail Pouch a year. The company was said to have known the location of every new oil field in this country, because an order for Mail Pouch was received from the fields as soon as operations began. At one point, Bloch Brothers Tobacco was offering a dozen kinds of pipe tobacco.
3. Bloch Brothers
The Bloch family emigrated to Wheeling from Germany in the 1840s and opened a dry goods store on Main Street, between 12th and 14th Streets. The enterprising family also ran a stogie operation on the second floor of the building. After the flood of 1884 destroyed their grocery inventory, Aaron and Samuel Bloch sold their interests in the dry goods business and focused on tobacco production. The fact that the flood did not destroy their tobacco was taken as a sign that tobacco was their future.
The Wheeling National Heritage Area preserves and celebrates the city's dramatic setting, resources, and history, including its role as the birthplace of the state of West Virginia during the Civil War.
A National Heritage Area is a part of our country's landscape that has been recognized by the United States Congress for its unique contribution to the American experience.