The Enigmatic Symbols in Cigar Box Labels

In no other art form – that I am aware of – did artists use more symbolism then in cigar box label art. There is one overriding reason for this: the cigar box label had to evoke an emotional reaction. To better understand why so much symbolism was used one must understand the times.  The cigar box label originated during the Victorian era 1843 -1901 when symbols were being used to express everything from sentimentality to repressed sexual desires.  The tendency towards Victorian sentimentality manifested itself in a number of complicated ways, symbolism was used in writing, pictures, flowers and jewelry to express or convey hidden messages. Graphically, these emotions were first epitomized with ancient mythological goddesses, flowers, cherubs and cupids . As the 19th century ended additional symbols were used such as the cornucopia, anchors, anvils, flags, ships all symbols to represent commerce and progress.

Cherubs are angelic and signify innocence.

Visions of girls as flowers to be plucked was commonly used in cigar label art to attract the gentleman’s desire.

Symbolic associations with the rose have existed since the days of the ancient Romans and Greeks. Roses have been identified with love and passion since those times, beginning with their association with the goddesses Aphrodite, Isis and Venus. Cleopatra is said to have received Marc Anthony in a room literally knee-deep in roses.

The staff of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, has a SINGLE snake wrapped around it. His staff was also called a Caduceus and was adopted as a symbol by the medical profession (although the modern medical symbols I have seen use the double snake).

Hephaestus; was a Greek God who Roman equivalent was Vulcan.  He is the son of Zeus and Heronia the King and Queen of the Gods or else (according to some accounts) of Hera alone.

Caduceus:. The Caduceus is  a winged staff  with two serpents intertwined about it.

In Greek mythology this symbol is associated with the god Hermes who’s Roman equivalent was mercury.
Hermes was the messenger of the gods and conductor of souls to Hades. Though he was the god of many things, for our purposes, he was the god of Travelers, Luck and Commerce. Hermes is portrayed with winged hat and sandals, carrying the Caduceus.

A symbol of plentitude, strong harvests and abundance: The Cornucopia usually had cigars or gold coins overflowing with fruits, and abundant harvest.