Collection: Sheep Dip
In 1931, Lucky Strike experimented with a campaign which referenced “sheep dip” in an attempt to prove the superiority of the “toasting” process. The campaign purported that the toasting process removed “harsh irritant chemicals naturally present in every tobacco leaf,” which were then sent on to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Animal Industry, to manufacture sheep dip, a chemical substance used to rid sheep of scabies. Interestingly, the key ingredient used in tobacco sheep dip was simply nicotine, rather than the “black, bitingly harsh irritant chemicals” the ads claimed. The ads attempted to convince consumers that the chemicals are “out so they can’t be in,” faulty logic at best.
Lucky Strike cigarettes did provide the base for sheep dip, though the resulting ad campaign was deceptive and a bit difficult for the everyday American to understand. It is no surprise that the campaign was short-lived, with just a handful (around 10) sheep-dip ads printed in total. It is important to note that these Lucky Strike ads are deceptive in two key ways; First, the ads claim that the byproduct sold to sheep-dip manufacturers is “black, biting, harsh irritant chemicals,” when in fact the byproduct is simply nicotine, never mentioned by name in the ads. Second, the ads employ a logical fallacy: “They’re out– so they can’t be in!” Two options are provided – the chemicals are either “out” or “in” the cigarettes. Because the chemicals are seemingly “out” in the sheep dip, then they must not be “in” the cigarettes. Of course, this fallacy can be broken down by stating the obvious: some chemicals may be “out,” while others certainly remain “in.”
Because most consumers were unaware of what sheep dip was, Lucky Strike dedicated a portion of its radio broadcast time to explaining the process to city dwellers. One internal industry memo documents the scripts for all 13 recordings of the NBC Studios radio show “The Lucky Strike Program with B.A. Rolfe and his Lucky Strike Dance Orchestra” for the month of August in 1931 (1). Eight of the 13 recordings expound on the sheep dip campaign. The programming for Saturday, August 22, for example, described an East Coast man to whom many listeners could relate: “Frank Leslie, whose only knowledge of sheep concerns boiled mutton and lamb chops, hasn’t the slightest notion what we mean when we speak of ‘sheep dip.’ No doubt he thinks it’s some kind of gravy for roast spring lamb.” The radio host then explains how farmers use sheep dip to treat livestock, and how this benefits smokers of Lucky Strike cigarettes.
Also on file among the internal industry documents are letters which indicate that solely the nicotine byproduct of Lucky Strike cigarettes was used in the manufacture of sheep dip. Though the American Tobacco Company had been siphoning off nicotine to sheep-dip manufacturers since at least 1915 (2), correspondence between the Vice President of the Tobacco By-Products and Chemical Corporation of Louisville, Kentucky, and the Vice President of the American Tobacco Company reveals that the nicotine from Lucky Strike cigarettes, in particular, was indeed sold in 1931. The VP of the Chemical Corporation found “improvement in the recovery of Nicotine that has been driven off by your ‘Lucky Strike process,” reporting that the nicotine could dip 1,500,000 sheep (3), or alternatively treat 2,700,000 poultry or create 765,000 gallons of spray for fruit trees (4).
1. “The Lucky Strike Program, with B.A. Rolfe and his Lucky Strike Dance Orchestra.” American Tobacco. August 1931. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/cpx75f00
2. Ramsay, RA, United States Department of Agriculture. No Title. American Tobacco. 2 March 1915. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/jix70a00
3. Robinson, AG, Tobacco By-Products And Chemical Corporation. No Title. American Tobacco. 7 July 1931. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/iix70a00
4. Robinosn, AG, Tobacco By-Products And Chemical Corporation. No Title. American Tobacco. 12 July 1931. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/kix70a00