The Golden Age of cigars and the Golden Age of the newspaper were closely parallel. Although newspapers trace their origins to the 1600’s, daily newspapers weren’t widely available to the working class until shortly before the Civil War when giant presses were developed that could mass produce daily newspapers on cheap paper and publishers could afford to sell them for a penny.

        When the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, ending the Revolutionary War, the US was home to 43 newspapers, perhaps outnumbering cigar factories by a few. By 1880, the number of newspapers had risen to 11,314 different titles, the cigar factories keeping pace. But cigar factories produced many brands, so the number of cigar brands outstripped the number of newspapers tenfold or more. By the 1890’s, at least one paper reported printing 1,000,000 copies per day, a figure only a handful of New York City cigar factories could match. In the late 1800’s, the boom in newspapers which had been precipitated by interest in the Civil War was fueled by the introduction of comic strips, the rise of organized sports and the Spanish-American War. Both the cigar industry and the newspaper business continued to grow through the turn of the century. The Post-World War One world witnessed the beginning of the end for both. Radio, television, and now the internet, have made most daily papers irrelevant except for opinion pages and local sports. Those same decades saw the rise of the fully automated short-filler cigar, then centralization, reduce the American cigar industry to fewer factories operating today than existed two centuries ago. Citizens of today’s world dominated by non-smoking laws and instant communication find it hard to imagine how common it was for a man to relax and smoke a cigar while reading the daily paper a century ago.

        Given their parallel histories and related activity, it’s no surprise that newspaper front pages were widely reproduced on cigar labels. But, with the exception of the common DETROIT FREE PRESS, these reproductions are hard to find today because they generally pictured local small town papers and sale of the cigars was limited to the area in which the paper was distributed.

Newspaper Boxes & Labels

A National Cigar History Museum Exclusive 

Text & images © Tony Hyman, all rights reserved

Illustration last added:  May 3, 2010