Punch is one of the world’s longest-lived cigar brands, named after a 17th century British puppet best known for delighting audiences by noisily beating his wife Judy with a stick. On the cigar label and show figures, Punch is depicted in traditional jester’s garb. At least one writer has claimed the brand was named after the British satire magazine Punch, but that is unlikely since the cigars pre-date the magazine, having been registered in 1840 Cuba “by a
German named Stockmann,” according to Min Ron Nee, author of An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Post-Revolution Havana Cigars. Nothing is known of the registrant or subsequent owner(s) other than a B. Perera whose name is found on what appears to be an 1860s or 70s label to which new owner, Luis Corujo, appears to have hastily added his name. 

    Punch was a popular trade figure both inside and out. The inside figure (above) is 23” high and in original paint.  [P1270097].

    An interesting mystery surrounds the top brand (marca) of the older Corujo PUNCH box. Who is Rio y Ca.? Yet another owner prior to Parera? It’s likely.  [W0045]

       Corujo’s first label of his own design continues to refer to the “Cigar Factory of B. Perera and Co.” (in Spanish) perhaps because Perera was responsible for the brand’s worldwide acclaim. An 1874 Directorio de la Habana e Isla de Cuba lists Punch owned by Luis Corujo, still working out of the Perera y Ca. factory at 138 Gervasio Street in Havana (incorrectly listed as 38 by Nee) but gives no indication of when Corujo took over.

    According to Nee, in 1884 Punch became the property of Manuel Lopez Fernandez, brother of Fernando Lopez Fernandez, who ran the prolific Juan Valle y Cia. cigar company. Members of the Valle family appear to have made and marketed Punch under Manuel Lopez’s name for many decades.



The F. Lebkuecher cigar factory, location unknown. c1890  [21354].

        The “Guide to Cuban Cigar Manufacturers” found in the 1892 tourist guide Cuba Illustrated claims to have been “carefully compiled” so visitors could buy premium cigars directly at the factory, and get a free tour by showing a copy of the book. A box of Punch, it reads, could be obtained at the factory of Lopez y Corripio, located at San Rafael 87, a mere 20¢ (in silver) ride “from any part of the city.”

  An 1893 Directory published in the U.S.  shows the factory at San Rafael 87 as owned by Manuel Valle, perhaps reflecting a Valle buy-out.

    Ownership changes are not unusual as  Cubans swapped business alliances as often as some folks change underwear. No brands are listed  in the Directory but it is assumed Señor Valle continued making Punch

        An 1898 cigar guidebook, Precios Corrientes de la Fabrica de Tobacos, published in
Cuba, lists four cigar factories on San Rafael, at numbers 51, 93, 136, and 87, the new home of La Flor de MuriasPunch was now made in a factory at Rayo 28 belonging to J. Valle y Ca., who offered the prestigious brand in 143 standard shapes and sizes. Their “Excelsior” size was offered banded and envase de lujo, packed in a custom box of 25 costing

$12.50, payable only in gold, a

week’s wages for a U.S. workman.

       The 1898 Guidebook lists among Valle’s marcas anexas (brands obtained when taking over another company) Sin Par

and Flor de Corujo reflecting the Valle family acquisition of Corujo’s brands some time prior. The 1909 edition of that line of Cuban cigar shopping guides reports the factory expanded, now operating out of Rayo 28 and 30. Their “impress your friends” smoke was a half-pound “Grandioso” sold only in boxes of 10 cigars priced at $10 in American gold, and not including any fancy box.

The Cuban Punch box most familiar to 20th century smokers has the names of both Manuel Lopez and J. Valle on the label and the flap. This combination appears to have been used for more than 75 years.

       The relationship between Manuel Lopez and the Valle family is unclear. During the late 1800s and early 1900s official and tourist directories list Lopez and either Manuel or J. Valle as owners. Perhaps the Valles acted as wholesaler-distributors for Lopez. William Gill’s famous Havana Cigars published in 1910 Havana, lists Punch as still belonging to Manuel Lopez and located at Rayo 28.

        In 1924, Esperanza Valle Comas became new owner of Punch according to Nee, but I’ve found no other source for that. The box above from the 1950s continues to show the J. Valle and Manual Lopez names, but means little as the Cuban cigar making tradition tends to honor founders or prominent owners on boxes and labels long after they have retired or died. Note the 2/85¢ price. Those were the days.

        The stock market crash and subsequent worldwide depression had an enormous impact on Cuban cigars, the world’s most expensive.  U.S. and European imports plummeted to a fraction of what they had been a decade earlier. The financially strapped company fire-saled the Punch brand to Fernandez & Palicio y Cia  who kept the brand alive, selling it along side their Belinda, La Escepcion and Hoyo de Monterrey. In 1940 and 1946, Punch was listed as the property of Fernandez, Palicio y Cia, located at 51 Maximo Gomez Street in Havana. Although Costa’s 1951-52 Directory of  Cuban brands and makers does not include Punch among the other three Palicio offerings, it remains in the Fernandez Palicio y Cia. catalog until the Cuban revolution. In 1961 only 6 sizes, ranging from 30¢ to 75¢ were sold in the U.S.

Note: Name punctuation inconsistencies exist, and are printed here as in the original documents.

Punch in Punch, a 1927 ad in the famous satire magazine. In the late 1920s Punch was one of only 28 Cuban brands being imported into England, most in a limited number of vitolas (front marks / sizes).


       At the time of Cuba’s first successful revolution, by Fidel Castro, the brand was sold worldwide and remained especially popular in England.  Punch was among the brands that ultimately continued after Castro took control, and is one of the brands offered under the Habanos - Altadis alliance today.

An elegant gold on black label marks some later Punch boxes.

Seen courtesy of Wayne Dunn.

       From its founding in 1840 to the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Punch brand was successful around the globe. But success breeds imitation. During those years knock-offs proliferated in Cuba, Canada, the United States and, though I have no specific examples, probably Europe and elsewhere. Beginning in the 1870s, if not before, American cigar label printers offered a variety of labels with variations on the Punch name, character and label design. Knock-offs included copying the label, simulating the label, using the name Punch on boxes with  labels nothing like the original that would fool only those familiar with the name but not the image, using the label’s design with unrelated brands, and even creating humorous parodies based on the Punch name. Examples of these can be seen below.

The best-known and biggest selling was Tansill’s Punch, made by New York City cigar maker R.W. Tansill and advertised, often extravagantly, on trade cards and handbills for nearly 50 years, starting in 1862. Nothing exemplifies their ads better than this excerpt from an 1880 mailer:

above: [2490]    below: [2497]

   I’d be interesting is seeing pictures of any Punch boxes or labels you have from before World War II  (1840-1940).

Punch Cigars

and various knockoffs

A Cigar History Museum Exclusive 

© Tony Hyman, all rights reserved

Uploaded  May 10, 2012

Revised & add’l illustrations May 18, 20 & 31, 2012

By the 1880s, Corujo had dropped Perera’s name.   [02470]

A Punch luxury chest of 25 dating between 1912 and World War One.      [03481]

Boite nature and other all-wood boxes used a logo like below, printed on the inside lid.  [03400]