Cigar Salesmen Stories

A National Cigar History Museum Exclusive 

Text & images © Tony Hyman, All rights reserved

Uploaded:  October 12, 2010

Modified:  October 19, 2010



    “Some of the prominent retail cigar dealers in the city allege that they have been imposed upon! by a shrewd person, whose pleasing manner and courteous address aided him in disposing of many hundreds of cigars at prices far above their real value.

    “The cigar drummer's plan was to introduce himself in a pleasant way to his prospective customer. Then he exhibited quite a unique contrivance for cutting and lighting cigars. He would give a practical illustration of the working of the machine, and then refer to his cigars.

    “He would take a sample cigar from his pocket, or a box that he carried, and light it on the machine. This cigar he would pass over to his prospective customer. As a rule these sample cigars were quite good.

    “The drummer, in order to get the trade of the dealer, would state that he would give the machine as an advertisement for his cigars, and that he did not depend upon the first sale for profit, but believed that when once tried upon the dealer's customer, it would have a great run, and many additional orders would follow.

    “Many of the dealers were attracted by the cutting machine, and as the sample cigars proved fair, they gave their orders.

    “The plan of the drummer was to take the order, and upon payment of cash, deliver the goods. He would put the cutting machine in working order, place the cigars upon the counter, take his money and depart. The cigars were alleged to be good ten-centers at retail.

    “Wednesday night he delivered 300 cigars to Mr. Louis Gisselbrecht, on East Main Street, and was given in payment a check for $15.84 on the Planters National Bank. After the drummer left the place, Mr. Gisselbrecht opened the cigar-boxes and examined the cigars, and he alleges that the smokers are of the most ordinary brand and would not sell at 5 cents retail.

    “One of the cigars was opened and found to contain some common Pennsylvania filker, and an expert cigar-maker declared that it was not a fair nickel cigar, and that there was not a particle of Havana tobacco in the cigar. The wrapper was fairly nice-looking, and resembled a Sumatra.

    “Mr. Richard Williams, of South Twelfth Street, bought 200 cigars and paid for them the sum of $10.56 in cash. He was given one of the machines to put on his counter for the use his customers. Afterward he examined the cigars and reached the same conclusion that Mr. Gisselbrecht and the expert cigar-maker had reached. He said he wouldn't give 2 cents apiece for the cigars, but he likes the cutter.

    “Other dealers purchased cigars, and a number declined to buy on the ground that the cigars were not worth the price. When Mr. Gisselbrecht discovered that the cigars were not what he expected them to be, he went out in search of the drummer, who had not given his name, but who stated that he was stopping at Murphy’s Hotel. Mr. Gisselbrecht went to Murphy's and every other hotel and public house in the city, but he could not locate the drummer. He also went to the Southern Express Company's office, thinking that perhaps something would be known of him there. But no one could locate the cigar-drummer.

    “Yesterday morning Mr. Gisselbrecht went to the Planter’s Bank and had payment on the check stopped. The police have not been notified, because it is not believed criminal action can be taken. The case is more along the lines of the civil courts.

    “Later in the day the drummer presented himself at the Planters Bank to get the check cashed. The teller declined to honor it, and told the man to see Mr. Gisselbrecht. He went to the latter's office and offered to take back the cigars. Mr. Gisselbrocht demanded the check and he returned the cigars, after giving the man a word of warning.



Dealers Purchase Inferior Stock at Big Prices.

As reported in The Times (Richmond, Va), May 4, 1900 

    The story reported here is true, and far from unique. The huge number of traveling salesmen who spread around the United States in the 19th century weren’t all Mr. Nice-guys. A lot of them were con-men who disappeared with the customer’s money or delivered inferior goods of lesser quality, materials or workmanship than demonstrated or promised.