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Welcome to all those who enjoy collecting fine cigar label art. This web site is for your enjoyment and edification.

We thank you for joining with us in enjoying our hobby of cigar label collecting.
Labels still offer rarity, history and beauty at down-to-earth prices. However, we don't have the manpower or the time to devote to both of our businesses-labels and rare coins--and so we have decided to concentrate on numismatics and make this an educational site.

We thank our friends for their past business and hope that you've had as much fun as we have, and will continue to upgrade your collections. We hope that you continue to be passionate about the art and history of cigar labels and will help spread your enthusiasm in the hobby to others.



  In A Cigar Box Factory                        
The New York Times                                  November 18, 1883
                                                                             Submitted by: Dr. Gerard S. Petrone

The quality of a cigar label not dependent on a gorgeous label-where do the old boxes go?

    It has been estimated by those best able to judge of such matters that there are over 1,000,000 cigars smoked daily in New York City, requiring at the least calculation 15,000 boxes, which when empty are rendered useless by law for the further storage of tobacco. It has frequently been asked what becomes of these empty and useless boxes. It is a well-known fact of social economy that the tens of thousands of empty tin cans and the hundreds of acres of decayed theatre bills are devoured by the voracious goats, to whose untiring efforts much of the cleanliness if our city is due. But the greed of the goat, while it seems equal to any diet, however indigestible it may be, hardly compasses these 15,000 empty cigar boxes, and, although the tender labels and succulent nails are favorites of his, no traces of the odor of red cedar are apparent on
his breath; on the contrary, quite the reverse.
    With a view of determining the final disposition of these boxes a TIMES    philosopher visited the largest cigar-box factory in the world yesterday.
Not only are the plain boxes made here, but the gorgeous labels which render a seedling five-center more attractive to the sight, if not to the other senses, than a fragrant Havana, are also printed here, and the narrow ribbons which bind the cigars into packages are woven here, too. There are over 30 cigar-box factories of greater or less size in this city, turning out daily 75,000 boxes, by far the greater number of which are intended for an out-of-town trade. Many of these shops buy their wood sawed into thin veneers, ready to be cut into the necessary sizes and manufactured into boxes. They also purchase their labels ready printed or lithographed, but the larger factories do their own printing and buy their wood in logs. The best wood is red cedar, and the finest grades of it are grown on the sunny southern slopes of Mexico, Cuba, and Central America, where the vertical rays of the sun may penetrate its fibre and the heavy forests shelter it from the northern and western winds. This wood possesses the sharp, pungent odor which renders it particularly valuable for the packing of fine cigars. The wood which comes from the shores more exposed to the elements or is cut in swamps, is rank in odor and brittle in fibre. The logs which come from Cuba are usually smaller than those procured in the neighboring countries, but are not necessarily better in that account.         

    The unit of measurement in buying logs is a foot square one inch in thickness, and the present price is from 11 to 24 cents a foot in the log. Each log contains from 100 to 800 such feet. The 75,000 boxes require 30,000 feet of cedar, or about 15 logs a day. But all cigar boxes are not made of red cedar, although those intended for the better class of cigars invariably are. Many cheap boxes are made of poplar, which is shipped her from the West, already cut into veneers and stained so as to imitate the honest grade of cedar. This material is largely used in Pennsylvania, where cheap cigars are sold in great quantities. For this city very little is used. When the logs are unloaded at the saw mill they are first hewed as nearly square as is possible to be done with adzes. Not much work is required to do this, however, as the logs are cut into that shape before being shipped here. The hewing therefore only levels a bump or a knot here and there, leaving the log marked all over with red spots as if it were suffering from a violent attack of the scarlet rash.
They are then hauled up a steep wooden chute, whose surface, from constant friction and long use, is as slippery as newly frozen ice. They are here strapped on to a carriage that rides them backward and forward past the sharp teeth of a veneer saw, which cuts off at each passage a slice of wood from three-sixteenths to one-fourth of an inch in thickness. The atmosphere of this room is filled with a fine red dust and the air is redolent with the pungent odor of cedar. The sawdust is carefully preserved, and is sold to pork-packers, who prize it highly as a fuel in curing fancy brands of hams. It gives the
meat a delicate flavor which is greatly relished by epicures.

    From this room the veneers are taken into the drying department, where they are laid on racks and kept three days before they can be used. They are then run through a huge pair of steel rollers, resembling those employed in a flour mill, but which are in reality planers, and from which the veneers emerge as highly polished as if they had been burnished. After this operation they are sawed into long narrow strips, the width of a cigar –box cover, and cut into the requisite lengths. The ends are then planed as smooth as their sides, and they are ready to be made into boxes. The lids and sides are put into printing presses such as ordinary printers use, only much heavier, and the brand and size of the cigars are indelibly impressed on them. They pass next into the hands of the nailers. They are not nailed together by hand, but by machines which look like the type-setting machines. The nails are fed into a hopper on the top, and are led through small brass pipes into little tubes at a proper distance apart. By the pressure of his foot the nails are forced by the operator out of these tubes into the wood as accurately and six times as rapidly as the most expert mechanic could do by hand with a hammer. The men then put on the covers by hand, fastening them in place temporarily with partly driven nails. The hinge, a narrow strip of cloth, is pasted on and the edging is then applied. The common blue edging is for the poorest grade of cigars, the white is intended for the medium classes, while the highest quality of goods requires the edging to be
of figured or colored paper. After this comes the inside lining and then the labels which ornament the inside of the cover.

    Some labels are high art. The designs are the work of distinguished artists, and the coloring is rich and varied. They are expensive, ranging in price from 2 to 10 cents each. It has been noticed that the quality of the cigar can be told by the style of the label. Those labels which resemble a cartoon in
a comic paper are usually intended for cheap cigars. Those which describe ladies in very décolleté toilets caressing impossible birds of unheard of colors by fountains of emerald water seldom accompany a good cigar. The best Havana cigars usually have motto labels, bearing some Spanish name, or containing scenes in Cuban or Spanish out-door life. The more gorgeous the label usually the poorer the cigar. The game rule holds good with the box itself. Those which have brass hinges and a small catch in front, and fairly glisten with
a varnish polish, generally hold cheap cigars. The printing department of a large factory is as nearly complete as a job printing office can be. The printers must be artists as well as compositors, and the combination of rules and the use of the colors often require the highest skill.

    After the labels are pasted in, the boxes are ready for delivery. In this factory the silk ribbons are woven. The raw silk, which is kept locked up in the factory safe, is sent to the dyers and given the requisite color. It is then wound on spools, which are put on frames from which it is fed into warps.  The warp is finally woven into ribbon by the loom. These ribbons constitute the most lucrative part of the manufacture, as the Government protects the manufacturer from foreign competition. The machinery of a fully equipped box factory is very expensive, and the cost of a plant cannot be expressed
by less than six figures.

    “You came to inquire about old cigar-boxes, I believe,” remarked the proprietor, after he had finished a trip through the factory. “That is a hard question to answer. Most of them are destroyed by the retailer when he sells a box of cigars. The stamp must not only be broken, but it must be so erased as to be almost unreadable. This can only be done by scraping it off with a sharp knife. This is a difficult task, and as the penalty for evading the law in this particular instance is very stringent, most of the dealers prefer to break the box into pieces as the easiest way to accomplish the purpose. The pieces are often sold for kindling or used in starting the office fires. Several years ago many retailers sent us their boxes to be made over into new ones. They first erased the stamp and then marked the boxes as old wood. But the special Treasury detectives have become so watchful in bringing those to justice who failed to utterly destroy the stamp that this practice
has become obsolete. I suppose out of the 5,000,000 boxes we manufacture in a year, not more than 4,000 are made of
old boxes.”

    “What is the cost of a new box?” “That varies. Red cedar boxes without labels are usually worth from 8 to 12 cents
each, depending on their size. The largest box holds 250 cigars and is somewhat smaller than a tea chest. The smallest regular size is intended for 25, and can be carried around in a pocket. We make special sizes for special brands.”

This Schwencke label depicts various sports and their champions featuring:
Percy Stone, James Albert, J. Schaefer, L. E. Myers, Wm. F Cody and Wm. Ewing

This label depicts John Sparrow David Thompson, the Prime Minister of Canada
and his Cabinet

Copyrighted in 1892, this Krueger & Braun sample label portrays the
brave fire "laddies" of a bygone day.....with their horse-drawn fire engine

This Geo. S. Harris & Sons image captures the excitement of a close cycle race.
The expressions on the faces of the spectators and the cycylists give this label life!



Watch this video!
The Tale of the Cigar Box Label


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