The Golden Age of the Cigar Label Begins

Cigar manufacturers of the mid 19th century knew little about advertising. People found out about cigar products through newspapers, or signs in merchant windows.  Many depended on word of mouth or smokers who frequented taverns or cigar stores. Cigar smoking did not really boom in the United States until after Civil War with individual brands emerging by the late 19th century. By then the cigar had become a status symbol in the United States.

People enjoyed cigars and they became a part of the upper classes leisure activities so much so that hotels and clubs were building special rooms for smoking. In addition, there were smoking railroad cars. The after-dinner stogie, accompanied by glasses of port or brandy, became a tradition.

By 1875 cigar consumption had reach 5 billion cigars annually. Official U.S. government tax records said 48 cigars were smoked a year for every man, woman, and child in the U.S.

With the completion of the transatlantic railroad goods traveled quicker and with more frequency. Goods were mass produced, and shipped to all parts of the country. These rapid and complex changes in the American marketplace required that cigar manufacturers develop a new strategy to entice consumers into buying their products. Advertising was the answer.

Putting attractive labels on the inner lids of cigar boxes was used as point of sale technique. They acted as miniature billboards, competing with each other to attract the passing eye of the customer.

What theme or image might impress the customer to buy? Many manufacturers thought it would be the news of the day, or popular phrases , or humorous images, or depictions of pretty women, or the growing cult of celebrity in politics, sports, entertainment and the military.

In 1879  Inventory was taken at Heppenheimer & Maurer, one of the more important New York City lithographic establishment, included 25,000 registered lithographic stones, 7,000,000 cigar labels, created by 22 on-the-premises artists. The tobacco tax accounted for one-third of Federal revenue. 40% came from cigars smoking.

By 1886 New York City was home to 1,960 cigar factories.  California was home to 385 cigar factories and Florida was home to 154 cigar factories.

The ability to mass produce,  sell anywhere in the country, and advertise on site triggered the Golden Era of cigar labels. Cigar labels became a show in themselves: they entertained, they informed, and they amused.

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One Response to “The Golden Age of the Cigar Label Begins”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    Thought you might be interested in this result from our auction yesterday. A collection of cigar label proofs sold for $15,600. Read more at: http://swanngalleriesinc.blogspot.com/2009/12/cigar-labels-catch-fire.html


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