Cubebs? I’m one of those rare guys who likes to watch musicals. One of my favorites is “The Music Man” starring Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, and that features Buddy Hackett and Pert Kelton.
“Professor” Harold Hill (Preston) attempts to con the town of River City, Iowa into buying musical instruments. Upon arrival of the instruments, he offers to institute the 1st River City boy’s band. They are an unexcitable people, however, so he warns the people their children are threatened by the arrival of a pool table. Such a vice, he advises, will lead into such bad practices as smoking cubeb cigarettes.
“Ya Got Trouble”
Since it is a musical, the music man sings of the danger in this song…
What is a Cubeb Cigarette?
A cubeb is a cigarette made, not from tobacco, but from the pepper plant Piper cubeba, the name meaning tailed pepper.1 Popular during the late 1800s on into the 1900s, cubebs were claimed to possess medicinal properties, useful for the treatment of asthma and a number of other ailments.
One prominent individual associated with the pepper-based cigarettes was the author of the vine-swinging character Tarzan was Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Prominent compounds associated with smoking cubebs are alpha and beta cubebene. Notice the similarity of these two substances. They are the most plentiful of the terpenes contained in cubeb smoke. They have been described as imparting a warm, woody, camphoraceous odor.
An Iconic Doll
Somewhat of an industry sprung up from the cubeb hype. Notice the close-up face of this Cubeb Boudoir Doll. Although there were claims of health benefits, a major goal of the cubeb industry was to introduce smoking to the ladies.
1 Notice the “tail” on each cubeb berry in the introductory image
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7 thoughts on “What is a Cubeb? The Author of Tarzan Knew – Do You?”
That was a fun song in the video. A master salesman warming up the prospects!
Yes, as are the other songs. Included in the movie is a barbershop quartet, The Buffalo Bills.
Loved the intro. You brought back a musical memory, in addition to giving scientific info. Couldn’t help but sing the song, as I read. Great commentary.
You’re a lot like me… Maybe that’s why we always got along so well. Well, except for the time… (HaHa)
I loved the Tarzan books when I was a boy. Didn’t know ERB was into what might be described as ‘wacky backy’! 🙂
And I liked Johnny Weissmuller. Sad he developed Alzheimer’s.
I’m pretty sure the writers substituted “Bevo” for reefers, since marijuana was, by the time the musical was written, illegal and considered a national scourge. The Music Man is set in 1908. At that time, reefers were sold right next to cubebs and taylor-mades quite legally. Bevo, on the other hand, was an Anheuser-Busch brand of near beer that was not introduced until the passage of prohibition in 1916. Predictably, it was discontinued in 1933.