Partagas 1867

Text and images © Tony Hyman, All rights reserved

Included courtesy of Jerry Petrone, who found and sent me

the original article by the Havana correspondent of The Journal of Commerce,

published in The Charleston Daily News, March 21, 1867 (page 4).

Minor grammatical and format changes have been made

to improve readability for the modern reader.

Updated October 21, 2014


The Havana correspondent of the Journal of Commerce, writing on March 6th, gives the following interesting particulars about the manufacture and prices of Havana segars. 

“It has been a special object with me to try the various segars here manufactured, and to learn something about the business. I drove out, the other day, to the manufacturing establishment of Partagas, the largest, and probably the finest manufactory of segars in the world. Their reputation is co-extensive with the use of Cuban segars.

        “It is, of course unnecessary to describe the method of making them. Every boy has seen this done in every town. But the great care shown in the selection of tobacco, the larger portion being raised on their own plantations, and the exceeding skill of the manipulation and the rolling, which gives such beauty to the cigar, entitle them to their high rank among manufacturers of the world. 

“The tobacco is placed in large rooms where it remains until it has undergone a thorough process of fermentation. The wrappers are divided into three classes, according, to fineness, and give the number to the several grades of segars known as firsts, seconds and thirds. The beauty of the leaf selected for wrappers of the firsts, especially for the highest priced segars, is beyond praise. 

   At first all cigars made in Havana were separated into three classes: Primera or first .. Segunda or Second ... Tercera or third.

   Some manufacturers never mark any of their cigars as tercera, claiming they don’t make any 3rd class cigars.

What they did was change the names to Flor, Primera and Segundos. Now no one made a third class cigar.

   Other companies mark all cigars as first class and indicate the class by the color of a label in a way clear to wholesalers and tobacconists.

    information from Billings 1875

“The price list of the Partagas segars is a curiosity. The highest price marked is for Celestiales at $500 per thousand; next are the Salomones, at $400; next the Napoleones, at $300, $150 and $140. The Imperiales, Embajadores, Cazadores and Rothschilds range from $110 to $130. The lowest priced segar on their list is the Londres third, at $33. 

“The very high priced segars are all large, weighing from twenty to twenty-two pounds per thousand. They are made with great care, and rolled slowly and cautiously. The best Londres segar of the Partagas cost $53 per thousand, and their best Brevas cost $50. The Regalia Britanica, first, second and third, $100, $90 and $30. The Londres weigh nearly fourteen pounds, the Regalia Britannica nearly nineteen, and the Brevas eighteen pounds per thousand.

“Segars can of course he bought at cheaper rates in Havana than those which I have given. But the certainty of a good segar enables the established houses to demand high prices.

“The best tobacco of Cuba is grown in the western part of the island, and it is remarkable that the same fact is true of the plant as of the vine in France, that the soil seems to vary without any visible indication of the reasons. Plants growing on one line of soil produce the most choice and valuable tobacco, while those on the ground, ten feet distant, are of common and inferior quality.

“The transfer of seed makes no difference. Of course, soil producing the finest leaf is of very high value. It is nature's laboratory fitted for its work, and no scientific agriculture can imitate it or produce the same results.

“I am unable to procure the statistics of the export of segars from Cuba. The amount is enormous, but the amount consumed here is also enormous. Every one smokes, and smoking is allowed everywhere. They say that when a fire breaks out in Havana the engine companies rush to the spot, and begin work by forming a line and lighting their segars. True or not, I can affirm from a dozen examples that in stores and shops of all kinds, when you ask for an article the clerk will deliberately take out his cigarette case and ask you for a light, if you happen to be smoking, before he answers your question.

“I have found very fine segars here selling at prices as low as $15 a thousand. In few instances, however, these can be obtained uniformly in any huge quantities, or from year to year. The Esculapios manufactory turns out very fine tobacco, fully equal to any other in quality if not in elegance of workmanship. The old Cabanas house maintains its ancient reputation. There are hundreds of factories, large and small, and it is not at all uncommon to find segars at ten for a dime which are as good as those for which you pay a dime each. But it will not do to depend on such purchases.

“All the segars for sale here are fresh, and it is difficult for even an experienced smoker from the States to select here. It would be impossible to find segars in Havana which are old and dry. And here permit me to remark that smokers would do better always to use fresh segars. They are better in flavor, and produce less effect on the nerves even when they are stronger segars. A dry segar has lost much of its distinctive character, and it is only poor segars which improve by age, by growing mild and flavorless.

“After a tolerably thorough search in Havana, and a trial of all kinds of segars, I am convinced that the best advice which can be given to Americans, desiring to purchase first-rate segars for their own use, is to recommend them to send for Partagas segars. If they wish a small segar let them send for Operas, at $50, and for a large and heavy after-dinner segar, Brevas, at the same price. The Londres, at $58 for the firsts, $43 for the seconds, and $33 for the thirds, are all good, and a medium-sized segar. They are very sure to have good segars who make up their mind to pay the expense and take these.

“I have thus far said nothing of the Cigarette, or Cigarillo, which is smoked universally here by male and female natives, and which is beginning to be used in New York more than formerly. The Honradez manufactory is the largest here, and in the world. I visited it the other day, and was amused to find that they do everything there except make cigarettes. They make their own boxes and barrels, cut the paper, print the labels, lithograph the ornaments for packages, cut and prepare the tobacco, and then send it out to be rolled to cigarettes by any one and every one. [[Suisini must have had a fit, as this report goes against a half dozen others... ed. TH]]

“Thousands of persons are thus employed. You will scarcely see a porter at the door of a house in Havana who is not busy making a little money by rolling cigarettes. The paper and tobacco are furnished by the factory, and on returning the work the man, woman or child is paid at the window after the work is inspected and approved. But I am very confident that there is better tobacco in the world for cigarettes than is grown in Cuba. There is no tobacco here fit to smoke in a pipe, and the best tobacco for the pipe is generally the best for cigarettes.  [[Because Cuban tobacco is an entirely different tobacco from that used in cigarettes... ed. TH]]

A mixture of Louisiana Perique with the best James River or Lynchburg smoking tobacco makes a better cigarette than anything in Cuba.  .[[ to an Englishman or an American after smoking Virginia tobacco for two centuries... ed. TH]]

Latakia tobacco makes by far the finest. The supply from here is enormous, in Europe and in the States.

“We frequently heard it stated that Connecticut wrappers are exported to Cuba for use here. Many believe it. It is not true, and for the very good reason that no such importation is allowed here. It is not at all probable that a segar ever left Cuba which was rolled in anything but a Cuba wrapper or made of anything but Cuba tobacco.”


“All About Cigars” 

as published in The Charleston Daily News, March 21, 1867, on page 4.