Barn’s historic past lives on


Ravenna – Gary Jones is the proud owner of a historic Mail Pouch Tobacco barn visible on State Route 88. The barn, which was originally built in 1906, still proudly sings the Mail Pouch Tobacco message “Treat yourself to your best.” “. Mail Pouch Tobacco barns like this are historic structures with one or more sides painted with a barn advertisement for the Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco Company based in Wheeling, West Virginia.

During the heyday of barn advertising from the early 1900s to the 1940s, many businesses paid farmers to use their barns as roadside advertisements for their tobacco products or local food stores for animals and grain. Initially, barn owners were paid a dollar or two a year for advertising. The Mail Pouch Barn program began with the now defunct Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company; the Swisher International Group, which bought the company in 1983, is continuing the historic program.

The program ran from 1891 to 1992, and at its peak in the early 1960s, there were approximately 20,000 Mail Pouch barns in 22 states. Harley Warrick of Belmont County, Ohio painted many of these barns after being hired for the post after World War II until his retirement in 1992. (After 1992, barn owners could choose to continue with the program, although the company no longer provides the services of a barn painter.)

Barns were typically hand painted black or red with capital letters in yellow or white, read as follows: “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco – Treat Yourself the Best”. Jones’ iconic barn has distinct yellow and white lettering. The Mail Pouch message can be seen from both sides of Jones’ structure, so drivers traveling in either direction can see the message.

Warrick painted the Jones Barn twice during his tenure as Mail Pouch Barn Painter, the last time in 1986. Since then Jones, now 70, has maintained the iconic message on its historic structure. It was last painted in 2010. While the Jones family owned the barn, they continue to receive $ 10 per year, after verifying that the structure is still in good condition and the message is still visible.

The barn has been owned by the Jones family since the 1970s; according to Jones, the original owner was George Atchison. He remembered seeing the Atchison’s dairy cows on the lower level of the barn as a boy living next to the 50+ acre farm. Jones’ father purchased the barn and 5-acre land he resides on after Atchison’s death in the 1970s.

Since purchasing his father’s barn, Gary Jones has discovered many artifacts that show how the structure has been used over time. It wasn’t until he found an old abandoned piano on the upper level that he learned that the barn had been used for hosting dances, as evidenced by several “barn dance” tickets that have remained. Finding a multitude of coal bills in an old metal box, Jones learned that Atchison regularly purchased loads of coal for his own use and for resale in the area to the Pleasant Valley Mining Company in Magnolia, Ohio. Jones provided these records, along with a variety of artifacts, to local historical societies for display in the societies’ museums.

As Mail Pouch barns have grown increasingly rare, thanks to Gary Jones, a piece of that historic past lives on today.

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