The History of Cigars

Explore the fascinating journey of the cigar throughout the centuries .


Spanish King again rules that Cuban tobacco can be sold only to Spain. The edict creates a job opportunity for smugglers for the next 181 years.  Tobacco farmers, vegueros, rebel against the edict.


Growing tobacco was prohibited throughout France; capital punishment could be imposed.


By this time cigar smoking was all the rage in Spain and the Royal Manufacturers of Seville was founded to consolidate the industry.


In Maryland, tobacco was legal tender for all salaries and debts, including those owed the government, at the rate of 1¢ per pound.


Tobacco first planted as a cash crop in the Dominican Republic. A century later it was one of two largest cash crops, mostly exported to German principalities.


Dutch traders who were responsible for a great deal of commerce around the globe brought the cigar back to Holland and, meandering their way to Russia found an cigar enthusiast in Catherine the Great who had her Cigars adorned with dainty swaths of silk to shield her regal fingers from the taint of tobacco.


Virginia passes the Option Act making it possible to pay the clergy in money instead of tobacco.


New Seville cigar factory finally finished, the largest industrial complex in the world, a “walled city” with more than 4,000 daytime inhabitants with its own chapel, rules and prison. Its workforce rolled 100,000 cigars a day.  Similar factories would later be established by the Spanish Crown in Mexico and the Philippines.


Spanish King re-enacts ban on selling Cuban tobacco or cigars to foreign powers.  After the brief British take-over of Havana in 1762, the ban was reestablished in 1764.


The irrepressible Israel Putnam, “Old Put” as he would be called, brought back “three donkey loads” of Cuban Cigars to Connecticut following the British invasion of the Caribbean Island. It is believed that he had stashed some seeds for planting in the fertile Connecticut Valley as well. It is to him that we likely owe our enormous gratitude for the great Connecticut tobacco we enjoy today.


England captures Havana for nine months, during which more international shipping went through Cuba than in two and a half centuries of Spanish control. The entire world got introduced to Cuban tobacco, exotic hardwoods, and fruits. Spain got Cuba back by treaty but learned that once a pleasure is known to the world, it is very difficult to hide or control.


The British occupation of Cuba lasted less than a year (It was given back to Spain as part of the Treaty of Paris which ended the French and Indian War (The Seven Years War as it was known to the rest of the world), but it was long enough for Cuba’s “golden weed” to find its way to the non-Spanish parts of Europe.


British Lt. Col. Israel Putnam returned to his farm in CT from occupation of Havana. He brought cigar tobacco seed and more than 30,000 cigars.  How much seed? No one knows, but tobacco is one of the world’s tiniest seeds. Enough to plant 500 acres will fit inside a lipstick tube. It takes 300,000 of these dust-size seeds to weigh an ounce).


Spanish King re-establishes ban on selling Cuban tobacco or cigars to foreign powers.


Cigar smoking begins to catch on in New England and major North American port cities. Cigars were cheap and almost entirely home made “paste cigars” so called because wrapper was glued to keep it from unwrapping. These were generally rolled by farm wives. Cigars were sold by their husbands or traded to local merchants or Yankee wagon peddlers.


US colonies declare independence from England. Tobacco growers were in perpetual debt to British merchants. Taxes were heavy. Tobacco helped finance the Revolution by serving as collateral for French loans.


Cigars are being imported into Boston from the West Indies (Cuba and Jamaica).