A Brief History of Cigars

May 15, 2019

Cigar smoking is an age-old tradition that began as a simple tribal ritual and evolved into a worldwide phenomenon. Since the first European landings in the New World, the smoking of various tobacco products has become more than a simple hobby, but a way of life and a right of passage.

The smoking of a cigar first gained international recognition in the 1500s.  Following the arrival of Columbus in the modern-day islands of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba.  They were presented with dried leaves that the natives would smoke socially and in ancient rituals.

Following their experience with the tobacco, explorers began to send shiploads back to Europe, where it became an immediate success.  The word cigar actually takes its name from the Mayan word Sikar, which means to smoke tobacco leaves.

Tobacco became a successful commercial crop and the number one export of North America.  During this time, Spanish colonists actually built the worlds first cigar factory on the island of Cuba, a land that would later become the most famous manufacturer of cigars.

While pipes and other smoking apparatus were the most widespread at the time, the rolled cigar began to become more popular during the 19th century.  Up through the mid-1800s, cigar manufacturing was primarily done in Cuba and other Caribbean islands.  However, following some upheaval and disputes, many company’s moved to Florida, which soon became the cigar capital of the world.

The end of the 19th century into the 20th saw the rise of what we know as a premium cigar.   A premium cigar is a cigar that is hand rolled and only uses the finest aged tobacco to produce a high end, quality product.  The turn of the century saw many politicians and important figures become cigar smokers, with such esteemed individuals as Sigmund Freud, Mark Twain and Ulysses S Grant becoming icons in the cigar world for years to come.

Cuba was the driving force of the industry until the 1960s when the US signed the Cuban Trade Embargo.

With the number one cigar smoking nation no longer a customer, many factory workers, and blenders left the communist nation and took their knowledge and skills to various countries throughout Central and  South America. Today, the cigar industry is a massive business, with hundreds of major manufacturers and countless smaller ones.


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