During the earliest days of cigar labeling in Cuba, 1830-60, labels depicting animals were rarely, if ever, seen. That changed when the label boom began here  in the United States during the late 1860s. Two of the earliest known U.S. labels depict two of man's favorite companions, dogs and naked ladies. Many more of both themes would soon follow. But, if you discount classical allegorical nudes, dogs outnumbered their unclothed rivals for men's affections by a wide margin. Only race-horses, another of man's favorite 19th century pastimes, were seen on as many labels as canine companions.

Domestic Animals on Labels

A National Cigar History Museum Exclusive

Text & images © Tony Hyman, all rights reserved

Latest update January 13, 2013

    It is amazing, given the rarity of boxes from the 1860's, that these two examples (obtained by the NCM years apart) both utilized the same stock label as a frame, an early demonstration of the creativity and flexibility of cigar label designers. In the 1870’s, the design floodgates opened the period of greatest creativity for on-the-box-advertising. A herd of animals and other live critters appeared in the newly-invented showcases adopted by retailers nation-wide. Smokers seemed to respond to the mix of furry, scaly and slimy creatures decorating their cigar boxes, so for the next one hundred years beasties of every sort sold, or tried to sell, cigars.

    The Museum has five exhibits devoted to these fauna: Wild Animals, Domestic Animals, Race-horses, Birds and lastly, Water life. Animals being chased, trapped, shot or caught on hooks can be found in the Hunting and Fishing Exhibit.

    The Exhibit you are visiting provides a small window into the world of dogs and other domestic animals found around the home or farm. In general, I avoided including anthropomorphic animals, those wearing human clothes and engaged in human activities. Perhaps, someday, the Museum might obtain enough of them to make an exhibit worthwhile. 

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