Some Cigar History
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Some Cigar History

*Explorer Christopher Columbus is generally credited with the introduction of tobacco to Europe. Two of Columbus's crewmen during his 1492 journey, Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres, are said to have encountered tobacco for the first time on the island of Hispaniola, when natives presented them with dry leaves that spread a peculiar fragrance. Tobacco was widely diffused among all of the islands of the Caribbean and therefore they again encountered it in Cuba where Columbus and his men had settled.[2] His sailors reported that the Taínos on the island of Cuba smoked a primitive form of cigar, with twisted, dried tobacco leaves rolled in other leaves such as palm or plantain.

In due course, Spanish and other European sailors adopted the hobby of smoking rolls of leaves, as did the Conquistadors, and smoking primitive cigars spread to Spain and Portugal and eventually France, most probably through Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Portugal, who gave his name to nicotine. Later, the hobby spread to Italy and, after Sir Walter Raleigh's voyages to the Americas, to Britain. Smoking became familiar throughout Europe—in pipes in Britain—by the mid-16th century and, half a century later, tobacco started to be grown commercially in America. Tobacco was originally thought to have medicinal qualities, but there were some who considered it evil. It was denounced by Philip II of Spain and James I of England.[3]

Around 1592, the Spanish galleon San Clemente brought 50 kilograms (110 lb) of tobacco seed to the Philippines over the Acapulco-Manila trade route. The seed was then distributed among the Roman Catholic missionaries, where the clerics found excellent climates and soils for growing high-quality tobacco on Philippine soil.

In the 19th century, cigar smoking was common, while cigarettes were still comparatively rare. In the early 20th century, Rudyard Kipling wrote his famous smoking poem, "The Betrothed." The cigar business was an important industry, and factories employed many people before mechanized manufacturing of cigars became practical.

Inside an Ybor City cigar factory c. 1920

In 1869, Spanish cigar manufacturer Vicente Martinez Ybor moved his Principe de Gales (Prince of Wales) operations from the important cigar manufacturing center of Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida to escape the turmoil of the Ten Years' War. Other manufacturers followed, and Key West became another important cigar manufacturing center. In 1885, Ybor moved again, buying land near the then-small city of Tampa, Florida and building the largest cigar factory in the world at the time[4] in the new company town of Ybor City. Friendly rival and Flor de Sánchez y Haya owner Ignacio Haya built his own factory nearby in the same year, and many other cigar manufacturers soon followed, especially after an 1886 fire that gutted much of Key West. Thousands of Cuban and Spanish tabaqueros came to the area from Key West, Cuba and New York to produce hundreds of millions of cigars annually. Local output peaked in 1929, when workers in Ybor City and West Tampa rolled over 500,000,000 "clear Havana" cigars, earning the town the nickname "Cigar Capital of the World".[5][6][7][8]

In New York, cigars were made by rollers working in their own homes. It was reported that as of 1883, cigars were being manufactured in 127 apartment houses in New York, employing 1,962 families and 7,924 individuals. A state statute banning the practice, passed late that year at the urging of trade unions on the basis that the practice suppressed wages, was ruled unconstitutional less than four months later. The industry, which had relocated to Brooklyn and other places on Long Island while the law was in effect, then returned to New York.[9]

As of 1905, there were 80,000 cigar-making operations in the United States, most of them small, family-operated shops where cigars were rolled and sold immediately.[5] While most cigars are now made by machine, some, as a matter of prestige and quality, are still rolled by hand. This is especially true in Central America and Cuba, as well as in small chinchales found in virtually every sizable city in the United States.[5] Boxes of hand-rolled cigars bear the phrase totalmente a mano (totally by hand) or hecho a mano (made by hand). These premium hand-rolled cigars are significantly different than the machine-made cigars sold in packs at drugstores or gas stations. Since the 1990s and onwards, this has led to severe contention between producers and aficionados of premium handmade cigars and cigarette manufacturing companies that create machine made, chemically formulated/altered products resembling cigars, and subsequently labeled as cigars.

Historical figures

King Edward VII enjoyed smoking cigarettes and cigars, much to the chagrin of his mother, Queen Victoria. After her death, legend has it, King Edward said to his male guests at the end of a dinner party, "Gentlemen, you may smoke." In his name, a line of inexpensive American cigars has long been named King Edward. Classical pianist and composer Franz Liszt was quoted as saying "A good Cuban cigar closes the door to the vulgarities of the world".[10] Even a female literary giant of the Victorian era, George Sand, observed "The cigar is a perfect complement to an elegant lifestyle".[11]

U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant smoked cigars heavily, an estimated up to 12 a day. Sigmund Freud, the founder of Psychoanalysis, smoked 20 cigars a day, despite health warnings from colleagues.[12] Because of his frequent references to phallic symbolism, it is often claimed that his colleagues challenged him on the "phallic" shape of the cigar. Freud is supposed to have replied "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar," however, there are no records of such a conversation ever having taken place.[13]Winston Churchill, who has been credited with the practice of dunking a cigar in port wine or brandy,[14] was rarely seen without a cigar during his time as Britain's wartime leader, so much so that a large cigar size was named in his honour.

In Cuba, revolutionaries Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were often seen smoking a cigar during the early days of the Cuban Revolution. But Castro has claimed to have given up smoking in the early 1980s as part of a campaign to encourage the Cuban population to smoke less on health grounds.[15] Many other celebrities were well-known cigar smokers, including Groucho Marx, George Burns, Mark Twain, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Rush Limbaugh, Red Auerbach, Ernie Kovacs, Raul Julia, and Bill Cosby.[16]

Rudyard Kipling said in his poem "The Betrothed", "And a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke."

Apart from certain forms of heavily cured and strong snuff, the cigar is the most potent form of self-dosing with tobacco[citation needed], it has long had associations of being a male rite of passage, as it may have had during the pre-Columbian era in America. Its fumes and rituals have in American and European cultures established a "men's hut"; in the 19th century, men would retire to the "smoking room" after dinner to discuss serious issues.


*Partial reference provided by Wikipedia

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