You may not know him by name but if you have driven through Ohio farmlands you have seen his art. They stand fading in the fields along slow moving highways and interstates alike. They are the Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco barns. These giant working billboards were once an everyday sight, but now they're fading from the landscape.
After returning home from World War II Mr. Warrick felt the need to see more of this country. He got his opportunity when the Mail Pouch painting team arrived at his father's Belmont County barn. He watched and learned and when the team left for another location, Harley Warrick went with them. It would be the beginning of a career he loved.Warrick spent 55 years painting or retouching more than 20,000 barns. “The first 1000 were a little rough, and after that you got the hang of it” he said in a 1997 interview. Harley received $28 a week base pay plus 1½ cents a square foot production incentive. His take home pay could be as much as $32 a week! For the first twenty years Harley averaged two to three barns a day, six days a week.
Mail Pouch discontinued the barn advertising in the early 1970's but Harley continued painting barns for farmers who paid him directly for that service. Harley retired from barn painting in 1995 because of federal regulations banning the advertisement of tobacco products. He spent the last years of his life painting birdfeeders and other small Mail Pouch memorabilia. Warrick also was compensated with a rather unusual pension: once a month he received a carton of Mail Pouch tobacco from Swisher International, Inc.
Mr. Warrick was the last Mail Pouch painter and in 2000 he passed away carrying with him the art of the Mail Pouch barn.
Swisher Cigars & Tobacco
Swisher has come a long way since 1861 when David Swisher received a small cigar business in settlement of a debt. David Swisher was a travelling merchant out of Newark Ohio. Back then, cigars were only a sideline for Swisher and his four sons, just one of many notions that they hawked across the Midwest for the “rolling stores” or wagons.
Today, Swisher International is a leader in the tobacco business, accounting for one-third of the nation’s cigar sales and standing as America’s largest cigar exporter. They closed their plant operations in Ohio in 1927 and moved their headquarters to Jacksonville Florida.