Although cigars had been smoked in Europe and the U.S. since the 1760’s, there didn’t seem to be strong brand competition prior to the 1840’s. A cigar was a cigar and you took whatever you could get. In newspaper classifieds cigars were Spanish, half-Spanish, Havannah, Manila, Hamburgh, American, Key West, Yara or common, all descriptions of how, where, or what they were made of. You might find mention of Regalias or Londres, the two most popular shapes, both about four inches long, the former straight, the later bulbous.  Cigars were, but rarely, mentioned by brand name before 1840. RIFLE and DOS AMIGOS appear in American newspaper in 1838 and LA CARONA [sic] in 1839. 

    By 1840, worldwide demand for Cuban cigars was absorbing every cigar the island produced no matter the brand or quality. To fill that demand small cigar companies, factories and brokers sprang like daisies in spring, more than 1,000 of them by 1860. Every small town, and there were a lot of small towns, had a local roller/factory. Larger factories called them chinchales (bedbugs).

    Cuban cigar-making partnerships were often limited to a few transactions, lasting a year or two, a few crops. Many were of no more historical significance than most dreams. For most the goal was to catch on internationally, found a family legacy-business...

...  or sell out for piles of money to some bigger company.

Sound familiar?

    That was the cigar business in the days before the U.S. Civil War 1861-65 & the Cuban Civil War 1868-78.

    And the days thereafter.

      The cigar makers of that day were truly advertising pioneers. Prior to the 1860’s there was little marketplace confrontation between products with similar or competing brand-names. 

Cigars were the first product packed in containers intended to serve as marketing displays to induce customers to buy the contents. Every advertising and packaging decision cigarmakers and brokers did was ground breaking. The newly introduced German printing technology gave them the opportunity to create mass produced labels for the first time. 

        As pioneers the men and women who made and-or marketed cigars were forced to answer many basic questions, the answers to which would be taken for granted a half century later. [1] Where did the label go on the box?  [2] What shape should the label be?  [3] What color should it be?  [4] What image should be on the label? [5] What text should it have? [6] Where on the label should the text be placed?

        The earliest Cuban makers frequently believed a label needed nothing more than the maker’s name; others were more adventurous, and in so being, founded modern package advertising.  This exhibit is a peek at a few of the answers they came up with. EARLY CUBAN LABELS II goes into further detail about early label design development. Labels in this exhibit date 1835-1868.

Cuba 1820 - 1870 :

Modern labeling is born

Cigar History Museum Exclusive

© Tony Hyman