History of Cigars
Before anyone can begin to discuss the history of cigars, you need to understand the history of tobacco. Obviously, without the discovery of tobacco, there would be no cigars. The following is a timeline that describes the history of tobacco that focuses on cigars.
The Early Years
Natives of North, Central and South America used tobacco for centuries before Christopher Columbus made his way to what he thought were the Americas. Just about every Amerindian culture used tobacco in some form except the Inca’s. They were hooked on coca.
These natives smoked the tobacco as a loosely rolled bundle of leaves that were tied together. It is thought that the world “cigar” is derived from a native word, “sikar”.
In 1492 Columbus received tobacco as part of the gifts from the native people he met on his excursions. In turn, the crew introduced tobacco to the working class of Spain. Within 40 years, Cuba is shipping Spain the best grades of tobacco available.
Growth in Europe
In the late 1500’s, recognizing a good thing when they see it, Portugal breaks into tobacco farming, followed closely by the Dutch. This effectively breaks the monopoly that was held by Spain. Shortly afterwards, England begins tobacco farming in Jamaica.
In the early 1600’s London tobacco shops started to use statues to advertise the fact that tobacco products were for sale. Since the majority of the population was illiterate, the statues were needed as a form of advertisement.
The center of the tobacco industry is still considered to be Spain and in the early 1720’s, a 30 year project was started to build a huge, new cigar factory.
Cigar bands were first recorded in 1811. English tobacconists would apply the bands that had short sayings or quotes written on them. The first record of counterfeit Cuban cigars was found in London in 1820.
The New World
In the mid 1600’s, tobacco was first grown in Windsor, CT. The well known Connecticut Broadleaf tobacco would not be developed until 1833.
Around the year 1770, cigar smoking begins to catch on in the English Colonies. The cigars were cheap and mostly home made. They were called “paste cigars” because the outer leaf was glued together instead of tied or just held by hand in a tube form.
Cigars in the United States
By the early 1780’s, Cuban and Jamaican cigars are imported into Boston. In an interesting turn of events, in 1804, Cuba imports 1 million pounds of tobacco from the US to keep up with demand in Europe and Asia. Also in 1804, records show that the US imported 4 million cigars from Cuba, Germany, Amsterdam and Florida. Florida would not become a state until 1845.
By the mid to late 1800’s, tobacco is prevalent in almost every state of the union. The largest cigar centers were in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida.
In 1886, Vicente Martinez Ybor visits Tampa from Key West and decides to purchase 40 acres of land. He moves his Key West factory to this new land and “Ybor City” is born. Within a few years, Ybor City snatches the crown from Spain and becomes the Cigar Capitol of the World.
The story of Ybor City is worth at least one blog post of its own but, I will list some highlights:
- 1867 SANCHEZ y HAYA cigar brand created. This was also the first production cigar factory in Ybor City.
- 1867 Gradiaz, Annis creates GOLD LABEL brand cigars.
- 1882 GARCIA y VEGA brand of cigars founded.
- 1885 F. Garcia & Brothers rolls its first cigar in Tampa on June 7th.
- 1886 Samuel L. Davis y Ca., makers of clear Havanas and other cigars, founded.
- 1886 A. Santaella & Co., makers of OPTIMO, established in Key West. Later opens in Tampa.
- 1893 A.L. Cuesta moves his small Georgia cigar factory to Tampa.
- 1900 Morgan Cigar Co. founded in Tampa, Florida.
- 1904 J.M. Martinez factory in Tampa burned down on April 4th.
- 1905 PERFECTO GARCIA established in Tampa, Florida.
- 1912 A.L. Cuesta of Tampa, FL, buys Cuba’s world-famous EL REY DEL MUNDO
- 1953 J.C. Newman Cigar Co. moves from Ohio and takes over the E. Regensburg & Sons factory in Tampa.
- 1955 Universal Cigar Co., bought out A. Santella, long-time Tampa maker of OPTIMO.
- 1958 Carl Cuesta sells CUESTA-REY to the J.C. Newman Cigar Co.
- 1962 Bayuk Cigars Inc. buys Tampa’s GARCIA Y VEGA brand, holders of the largest stocks of pre-embargo Cuban tobacco already in the U.S.
Photos via old-picture.com, gloria305travels.com & hotelveritas.wordpress.com.A Brief History of Cigars: Part One by Tom Ufer