The 1930’s were tough times for the cigar industry. For the preceding decades, hand rolled cigars costing a dime or more outsold cheaper goods by a wide margin. More than 30,000 small factories had been located in every American town of consequence provided prosperous smokers with an unbelievable array of choices of sizes, shapes and blends. Three things changed that. Machines capable of automatically cranking out huge quantities of cheap cigars first appeared in 1917 and took over the industry during the 1920’s. About that same time Camels and other modern blended cigarettes addicted the soldiers of WWI and prohibition reared its ugly head. Those disasters were followed by the stock market crash of 1929 ending decades of free spending.

    More than 90% of cigars in the 1920’s sold for more than 5¢, but with businesses failing and massive unemployment, costly smokes were no longer affordable in the 1930’s. Cigarettes and cheap cigars dominated the market during the decade of economic depression. Sale of cigars by the box plummeted. In an effort to revive, or at least increase, by-the-box sales a goodly number of cigar makers and sellers returned to the 50 year old tradition of novelty packaging, but with a twist. Previously novelty packaging was designed to appeal to the men who smoked the cigars. Novelties of the 1930’s were designed to appeal to their wives and sweethearts. 

    “Look dear. See the nice wooden box I bought you.”  Scroll down, and  you can see too.


Novelties of the 1930’s

A National Cigar History Museum Exhibit

© Tony Hyman

Last addition: June 12, 2011


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