Fremasonry and Cigar Box Labels

It’s amazing how Cigar box labels artists had a never ending source of subject matter to draw from for cigar box labels. By the late 19th century no subject was off limits for a cigar label artists as long as the image would sell cigars. Hence, Freemasonry became perfect subject matter because of its richness in symbolism and its appeal to the many men that belonged to these fraternal Organizations.

The occult symbolism in Freemasonry came directly from a fountainhead of ancient Egyptian mysticism and contained hidden meanings that the cigar label artists loved to use on cigar labels.

Take for example the Inner Cigar Box Label Trimble Lodge “117”. A holy bible sits on an alter of masonry, and upon the bible sits a square and a compass.  If you take a closer look you will also see the letter “G”, an all seeing eye, three candles in the shape of a triangle, a trowel and a slipper.

All these symbols have dualistic meanings. The square, the compass and the trowel were all tools used by the masons in their work but they also represented a more hidden meaning of the righteousness and divine. A compass represented the heavens or mans wisdom of conduct, the square represented the earth or mans virtue of conduct (morality), and the trowel represented the spreading of brotherly love and affection.  The “G” and all Seeing Eye represented god.  The three candles in the shape of a triangle  represented the great first cause of truth. The slipper represented man’s protective influence for his family. Together they are the symbols of revelation, righteousness, and man’s redemption.


Key West Cigar Box Labels

In 1870, with the civil unrest in Cuba, Cuban cigar makers fled their country to Florida’s Key West Islands. The immigrants brought with them the only skills they knew – hand rolling cigars – so factories began to emerge along the Florida Keys, and their products made inroads up and down the east coast.

If a customer asked for a Key West cigar they knew they were getting a cigar every bit as good as a Cuban Imported cigar. Soon cigars began to be classified into three distinct classes: Imported, Domestic and Key West. As the Key West Cigar grew in popularity, the industry spread northward to Tampa where shipping facilities could better handle the transport of tobacco.

Many Cigar Box Labels of the 1870’s displayed the Key West theme to indicate to customers it was a genuine Key West cigar. The themes included beautiful women, symbols of Industrial progress, and the marketing of fine tobacco.

Today, many cigar box label collectors highly prize the Key West Cigar labels. There still remains enough existing Key West Cigar Box Labels that by themselves they can make up a nice subject area for a collector.