Nailed Wood with Hardware  NWH

A National Cigar Museum Exhibit 

© Tony Hyman

Updated 03-18-19

        Boxes were not required to be trimmed (covered with labels).   As a result, some cigar makers cut costs by doing away with all paper labels and printing their ad copy directly on the box (POB).  Since there was no edging to cover the muslin hinge, the lid on this type box was typically attached with brass hinges, almost always in the style seen at left.
Since the box trade calls hinges and clasps “hardware” these plain wood boxes are called “nailed wood with hardware” boxes, abbreviated NWH. Tho not required, an NHW box frequently had a clasp, making it a “nailed wood with full hardware” or NWHC.  

It was difficult to print complex pictures on wood, so ad copy was often a few simple words in a decorative border.  Some box makers mastered using red and gold to make dramatic boxes. Others used a mix of red, gold and silver inks with die cuts, inners or photographs.

        NWH boxes experienced their Golden Age of design between 1880 and 1910. By the time of World War One, only a handful of companies were packing in this once popular box style.  NWH boxes were driven out of the market by the increased cost of good looking fine grained box wood. This occurred at about the same time that tin cans and box trim became available cheaper than ever before. NWH boxes from after WWI are usually quite plain and marked by lesser quality wood, finish, and design.

        Some NWH boxes were made attractive by the use of pattern-stamped woods.

[8395]   [4275]


Fancy NWH boxes




        Cute die cut of rural relative. Cigar brands named after uncles abounded. UNCLE CY, UNCLE DUDLEY, UNCLE JAKE, UNCLE JOE,  three different UNCLE JOSH and, of course, UNCLE SAM are in the collection with many more relatives to be discovered.  UNCLE DAN was made in Fact. 235  in the 9th District of PA shortly after 1900.




    Detailed die-cut as top brand, but not repeated inside.  Bondy & Lederer’s factory at 70th Street & 1st Ave, in NYC, made the cigars for Lewis & Levy in Memphis. Marked as “Pat’d ‘86” but what’s patented is anyone’s guess. Rich coloring of the wood is unusual on an NWH box. Factory 294, 3rd (tax) Dist. NYC, employed 600 rollers.





      Box is marked as “patented November 6th 188[3,8,9?]” though what exactly is being patented isn’t clear. Printed in gold, red and black with die-cut photo inserted.

        Cigars made by M.W. Mendel & Bro. in their huge 400 roller factory at 15½ Bowery in Manhattan (Fact. 729, 3rd NYC) for J.K. Sweeney Co. in Clinton Iowa in the early 1890’s.  Collectors and dealers are often confused, believing names like Sweeney’s which are prominently displayed identify the maker. That’s usually not the case.



Selection of Die-Cuts


        Small brown jug applied, then overprinted in gold on  an NWH 50/10 in 1898. Cigars by Barlow, Rogers & Simpson, a 60 person factory in the cigar center of Binghamton, NY  (Factory 641, 21st NY).






          Striking use of gilt printing on a varnished NWH box from the early 1880’s. The outside top of this beautiful box is decorated with gilt leopard spots, but the flap doesn’t carry through on the wild animal theme, using instead the doghouse trademark of cigar maker Landauer & Kaim, whose 250 person factory was located at 410-412 East 64th Street in Manhattan.  [Fact. 106, 3rd NYC].

[8391]   [8392]


Gold printing


        Fine lines don’t translate well to wood.  Fact. 1597, 1st PA late 1880’s.         [4269]   [4970]

Fine lines on wood and paper





    Combination of black, gilt printing and round die-cut makes a NWHC 50/13 package that would stand-out in any cigar counter. Cigars made in Factory 159, 12th Dist. PA in mid 1880’s.


        Decals were occasionally used on cigar boxes, nowhere more effectively than on AMERICUS, made in 1876 as a Centennial offering for Kaufman Bros. & Bondy, Fact. 4, 3rd NYC, a giant 600 roller factory located at 33rd and 1st Ave. in Manhattan.  NWHC 100/26.

[04209]   [04210]


Black is beautiful

        A New York City box maker came up with this beauty for Peter Burke, a Manhattan cigar maker in the late 1870’s. The blue liner sets off the black and gold NWHC 50/13 perfectly.

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Another classic, with color added

        Boxes of 100 were the most common packing in the 1860-1885 period, especially for cheap cigars, cheroots, tobies and stogies. Note the absence of top brand and rough sawn lid. Note, too, the overall lid (resting on all four sides of the box), a characteristic of early boxes. Cigars were made by W.M. Beard whose Fact. 14, 8th District PA was on the SE corner of 4th and Penn Streets in Reading. This box has an 1878 tax stamp, good until 1883. Thee 8th District of PA was absorbed into District 1 PA in 1880, clearly evidencing the 1878-79 date of the box.  The two colors and tree branch motif make this a distinctive NWH from that period.      [04215]   [04216]

The classic NWH 100


    Plain no nonsense bare bones basic box. 

The classic NWH used by S. Lutz & Co., a 10 man factory located in Reading, PA. (Fact. 1179, 1st PA) in the early to mid 1880’s.



Varnished gilt and die-cut        


Designs that incorporate the stamp


        Good example of how some top brands are offset to provide space for the stamp. Made in Factory 233, 2nd District of Wisconsin in 1909.


        Newspaper front pages are a popular cigar advertising theme with the DETROIT FREE PRESS

by far the most common. They’re fun to collect and read when on paper, but make a terrible

transition to wood. Dawn of the Twentieth Century, celebrating January 1st, 1901 is a great idea

but impossible to decipher the text in the various stories.  Offset keeps the tax stamp from interfering with the illegible design, but the local Cigar Maker’s Union chapter screwed up their foresight.  This seems to be a bad idea but a great box to own, certainly one of the rarest newspaper boxes.

        Remember the argument whether 2000 or 2001 was the first year of the new century?  Apparently they had the same debate a century before as I’ve found cigar boxes celebrating both dates.



My 1st NWHCT came with a story

    This box was given to me in 1953 by Bill Thorne who bought it new in 1888 to celebrate his selection at the age of 23 to the survey team hired to prepare Oklahoma Territory for the land rush of 1889. He bought this particular box because of the tray, which would keep cigars from rattling around as the box was to be carried on mule back while doing the survey. He reported he later carried it all the way to California on a horse.

    Bill was 88 when he passed his precious souvenir on to a 14 year old cigar box collector who retains it to this day. Bill lived to be 105.

    Cigars were made by Sidney J. Freeman & Co., 120 Cherry Street in Manhattan. Fact. 884, 3rd NYC, but Bill remembered buying it in St. Louis.



NCM Home            Wooden Boxes            Box-type Overview

        The top brand on this c1890 box appears to be pro-hunting, but the bucolic interior belies that.

Paper label has a gilt frame overprinted. Cigars made in Wisconsin shortly after 1900.

[0835]   [0836]

I believe this is a yiddish  phrase meaning ‘of little importance’ or something similar. I’m happy to hear other translations relevant  a century ago.



        Most NWH boxes are either plain wood or varnished. The varnished OUR BEAUTY with its applied die-cut is aptly named. Cigars made by Adolph Freeman’s five man factory (Fact. 99, 12th PA) in Wilkes Barre in the mid 1880’s.  Die-cuts of flowers, children, and other topics are frequently found.


Standard varnished NWHC 50/10 with intricate fine line design that doesn’t translate all that well to printing on wood. Fact.1413 in the 21st Dist. of NY was owned by Iola D. Rothensies in Walton around 1885 when this was made.


      Very intricate design to be printed on wood. Note the offset, repeated on the outside, which provided space for the revenue stamp to be applied without affecting the design.  I’m surprised that more cigar folks didn’t take the stamp into consideration when designing boxes as they were a fact of life. Why offset on both sides? The folks assembling the boxes didn’t have to worry about which side went inside and which went outside...and no extra set-up fee.

      Little Dutch is a type of tobacco grown primarily in Ohio. Cigars made in Fact. 2829, 9th PA, owned by Stephen F. Ulrich in Elizabethtown, PA, in 1893 and John E. Ulrich in 1905.

      NWHC100/20 with a somewhat elaborate plantation scene featuring two overseers and four slaves is clear despite its detail. Box used by Charles E. Bowman of Hagerstown Fact. 1197 MD c1900.

        Paper label version of the image is below.

      This early (c1884) gilt eagle was printed atop a stock black ink frame. Virtually all detail is lost, becoming a silhouette. Cigars by Umbenhauer & Poorman in Factory 422, 1st PA in Reading. 

        Note the blue liner. Colored liners were used as design elements more often in NWH cigar boxes than

in standard trimmed NW boxes.

        Printing in “gold” was logical for golden brand names. The boxes on the oriole’s back are printed in red, the third most popular color for printing on NWH boxes (after black and gold).  Note the offset and tilt,

a quality control problem not uncommon on NWH boxes.  Cigars by Henry Marks, Littlestown, PA (Fact. 361, 9th PA) sometime between 1898 and 1901.

        This is the same image as on the lithographed label called FEARLESS.

          One of the most beautiful examples of detailed gold printing is found on the outside top of a c1900 German box made to hold cigars by Erutsner & Schwarz in Dresden for Erstes Habanna Haus cigar store.  Box is an NWH 50/13 overall lid.

        It takes a printer of exceptional skill to do an image like this. Too, the die must have been very fresh as the detail is incredible.

        Fancy black and green die-cut of a little girl offering a box of cigars fits nicely inside a stock frame printed in black. This attractive package stood out in an 1870’s cigar counter. GILT EDGE cigars were made in Fact 142, 22nd Dist. PA in the late 1870’s by an unknown maker. The NWHC 50/13 originally had a dark red liner.


     Red, black, silver and gold featuring a cherub! One more proof boxes don't have to be covered with paper to be attractive. Made by the 1,000 rollers in Lichtenstein Bros. Fact. 50, 3rd Dist. NY located at 38th St. and 1st Ave. in Manhattan.


REINA HORTENSIA is packed in a NWHC 100/13 box covered with decorative gold design. Fewer than 5% of NWH boxes use inner trim type labels.

This lovely box was used around 1890 by Steinecke & Kerr, a 250 roller factory located at 20 7th Street in Manhattan (Fact. 120, 3rd NY).