The Old West

Cowboys, explorers, pioneers and bandits on cigar boxes

A Cigar History Museum Exclusive

© by Tony Hyman

Uploaded April 12, 2010

Additional photos May 4, 2010

Additional photo January 16, 2011


    The cigar industry was in full swing in the post Civil War era...and so was the population shift to the Western U.S.  A few states were west of the Mississippi, most notably Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Texas and California, but a great deal of open country existed, much of it home to indigenous people...ready for settlement in the minds of Eastern adventurers.  Native populations weren’t enthused about the foreigners traipsing through their lands or building houses on them. Their resistance became a major part of Western lore, and cowboy movies of the 1950s.

    The West was a lot more than fights with “injuns.” The landscape was huge, distances previously inconceivable to Easterners who left a landscape where you were seldom more than a day’s ride from towns, and had neighbors frequently less than a mile or two away. The empty spaces of the West and its lack of formal government (hence law enforcement) invited the dregs of civilization to follow or travel with the families moving West, giving “decent folks” another class of people to be wary of.

    Entirely different weather and growing conditions brought the new Westerners another pile of problems. Life in the West was difficult. It took guts, a flair for adventure, an ability to overcome hardship, perseverance, determination, and a willingness to work hard. The great plains, the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific West were not for sissies. For those who stayed home, the West they “knew” existed in their minds, in dime novels, and in travelers tales...all making it more glamorous than reality.

    Most cigars were made for Easterners, so it should be no surprise that the glamorous West found its way onto cigar boxes far more often than the dirty, dangerous and downright nasty one.

    If you’re interested in 19th and early 20th century portrayals of the West, make sure you visit the Exhibit of Indians on cigar labels.