English colonist John Rolfe (1585–1622) introduced tobacco to North America when he settled in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1610. Within two years, he successfully grew tobacco, discovering a way to preserve it so that it could be exported (shipped) to other countries. Tobacco became a major crop in the coastal areas of Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, where large plantations sprung up. Growing tobacco was less labor intensive than growing such crops as cotton or rice, though the tobacco plants quickly depleted the soil of nutrients, making the soil infertile. As tobacco growers "wore out" the soil, they moved westward into the Piedmont region, directly east of the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains. European demand for tobacco was such that by 1765, the American colonies were exporting almost twice as much (in monetary value) tobacco as bread and flour. Tobacco growing became the backbone of the plantation system in the South, where tobacco remains an important crop.
Further Information: Borio, Gene. Tobacco Timeline. [Online] Available http://www.tobacco.org/History/Tobacco_History.html, October 30, 2000; California Environmental Protection Agency. Tobacco Industry Information. [Online] Available http://www.gate.net/~jcannon/tobacco.html, October 30, 2000; "Landmarks in the Legal History of Tobacco." Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service. September 23, 1999.