This ol’ barn: mail pouch barns
If you’ve spent any amount of time driving around the rural east or midwest, you may have noticed old barnsides painted with the distinctive ad pitch:
“CHEW MAIL POUCH TOBACCO: TREAT YOURSELF TO THE BEST”
These “Mail Pouch Barns” are a quaint slice of the American past, blending rural 19th century barns with slick 20th century advertising. For more than 100 years (from 1890 to 1992), more than 20,000 barns in 39 states (most in the Ohio Valley) were functional billboards for Mail Pouch Tobacco.
Mail Pouch Barns are all over the nation, but their origin is Wheeling, WV. The Bloch brothers, who owned a general store, made flavored chewing tobacco, and needed some type of marketing to keep up in the increasingly advertising-oriented early 1900s. Their solution was simple: offer free paint jobs in exchange for turning a barn front into a billboard! The rest is history.
The cultural value of these barns has given them protection as registered historical landmarks. They survived anti-billboard highway beautification laws in the 1960s, and restrictions on tobacco advertising in the 1990s, all because of their long-lasting, iconic and completely American status.
But still, lots of Mail Pouch barns are gradually fading or being destroyed. Do you want to see some of the best-preserved and unique barns, right here in the state where they were born?
Get your maps, GPS and sense of adventure to find some true relics of yesteryear on our country roads:
Reminder: be respectful. Barns may be on private property.
1. Toney Hollow, Fayette County
Driving south out of Fayetteville on Gatewood Road, you will pass through some beautiful hollows, cow pastures and a golf course before coming to the Toney Hollow Road about 5 miles from town. Less than a mile down this dead-end road, you’ll see a nicely painted red barn on your left with the Mail Pouch slogan.
2. Midland Trail, Greenbrier County
You can easily get to this black-painted barn off of Interstate 64 just a few miles from Lewisburg, and well worth the 15-minute detour. From the junction of U.S. Route 60 (Midland Trail) and WV Highway 12, drive about 3.7 miles to the east, toward Lewisburg. You’ll see the barn on your left, facing south toward the highway.
3. Parkersburg Road, Sandyville
You can find this large black and red barn just south of Parkersburg in the Ohio River Valley of western West Virginia. Drive north out of the small town of Sandyville on the Parkersburg Road/County Road 21 for about 2 miles. The barn will be on your left, with the Mail Pouch slogan facing away from you to the north.
4. Elk River, Kanawha County
You can find 2 Mail Pouch barns within a third of a mile of each other, less than a half-hour north of Charleston along the scenic Elk River. Both are darkly painted on well-preserved barns, although they are obscured by leaves at some times of the year. Drive northeast of Charleston along U.S. Highway 19. The barns are about 1 mile past the town of Blue Creek.
5. Chapmanville, Logan County
This brightly painted garage side is one of the best-maintained Mail Pouch ads in the state. Drive to Chapmanville on Highway 119, and then onto southbound Route 10. You may have to look a bit downtown to find this Logan County attraction.
Have you seen any of these icons along our country roads?
This post was last updated on July 24, 2020