The Seductive Women of Cigar Labels

Women on cigar labels were portrayed as voluptuous, alluring, mysterious, and seductive   By far, the most popular cigar label theme is that of the woman. Right from the start, and into the Golden Age of cigar labels sex appeal was used to attract male customers. Beautiful women, scantily clad, and eye catching, were created to entice the mostly male customers to try a cigar. It all seemed so erotic and phallic.

Women of cigar labels ranged widely from young and innocent to sultry and buxom. Semi-nude women were common, but women were also depicted as demure, and sophisticated. All were used to tease a man and grab his attention.

Many women were depicted as goddesses, angels, warriors, appearing in Greek, Roman and or Egyptian motifs. Some images repeat themselves including; women playing instruments, women surrounded by cherubs, women holding laurels, staffs, swords, and shields. These secondary symbols also appealed to the male customer’s fantasy world and played on themes of patriotism, industrial progress, comfort, and fertility.

It must have been fun for the artists to create women of their dreams. Imagine a man smoking, staring at his favorite label, and then smiling widely as he fantasized about the girl on the box.

Cigar labels also featured popular women of their day. Many historical women , actresses, opera singers, and upper class socialites were depicted. This not only made the label attractive but also suggested the cigars were of the highest quality and sophistication.

Other cigar labels offered romanticized images. There were woman in nature &, mythology, and women being romanticized by nobility. These added to the male fantasy world, but also appealed to women who were a fast growing part of the cigar market at the turn of the 19thcentury.

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Sparkle and Pin Ash The HD of Cigar Labels

As the 1890’s rolled around, lithographers were experimenting with various metallics, and with advent of heavy duty presses embossing was used to make their products stand out more. The idea was to go from a 2 dimensional to 3 dimensional look, sort of the “high definition” of the day. In the United States most lithographers used bronze flakes that were applied to the dies and heavily pressed into to paper.  While in Europe they added 24kt gold dust to get a shinier gold appearance. Embossing gave the labels added dimension and realism. In fact, gold embossed coinage imagery found on some stone chromo litho cigar art labels far exceed the detail of any gold, copper, or silver coin ever made.

The overall visual effect was amazing, with the bronze appearing like heavy medal applied to the image. It gave ornaments such as jewelry, coins, and emblems an extra pin ash that mad them jump off the paper. Cigar makers were thrilled with the new look and paid extra to get the all important “edge” in attracting the customer.  This was truly and literally the Golden Era of cigar labels!

Embossing also had an unintended effect for the longevity of surviving labels. Most of the early labels were printed on inexpensive, short-fiber paper discolored and became brittle over time. Embossed labels, on the other hand, required the use of high quality long-fiber rag-stock paper. The fibers stretched rather than breaking under the pressure of presses.

Bendable and flexible without chipping or cracking, this paper is not found in use anywhere else from any other time period. Labels printed over 100 years ago still remain clean and bright with no signs of aging. Such art, unlike a typical Norman Rockwell print, is a hand made original, and therefore, very collectible.