In 1994 the Virginia legislature created a vehicle license plate to memorialize the state's long history of tobacco agriculture. Other states have likewise created plates to allow drivers to voice support for farmers. Like Virginia's “Tobacco Heritage” plate, many use traditional imagery and direct appeals to the history of agriculture. Given the United States' automobile culture, the plates are prominent, if small, works of public history that offer official sanction to a particular view of agriculture's past. In creating the license plate, the Virginia legislature valorized a particular telling of tobacco's past and is best understood as part of a much larger effort to employ history to deflect criticism of the tobacco industry. This effort, like the license plate, relied on simplified imagery that elided the complex history of tobacco in Virginia.

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