Canada in a Box, Cigar Containers that Store Our Past 1883-1935 Canada in a Box, Cigar Containers that Store Our Past 1883-1935 Back Next
Canada in a Box, Cigar Containers that Store Our Past 1883-1935
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 The Empire at War    Great Scots 

The Empire at War

Trimmed nailed wood box (50)
Factory 2 Port 32 Series of 1897
Stirton & Dyer, London, Ont.
CMC 2003.46.7

During wartime, members of the British Empire’s forces were sent boxes of chocolates at Christmas in the name of the monarch. It seems London, Ontario cigar maker Stirton & Dyer managed to acquire one sent to a soldier in South Africa during the Boer War; they parlayed it into a brand of cigars with not only Victoria's image, but her good wishes for the new year printed in her own handwriting.

Trimmed nailed wood box (50)
Factory 11 Port 24-E ca. 1930
William Ward & Sons, Ltd., London, Ont.
CMC 2001.185.39 Tony Hyman Collection

Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig (1861–1928) commanded the British forces in France in World War I. He was blamed in England for the war’s high casualty rate, but had enough prestige in Canada for a cigar to be named after him.

Tin advertising sign
George Kelly & Co., London, Ont., ca. 1897
CMC 2003.46.120

On 15 October 1897, British regiments fighting in the northwestern frontier of India were pinned down by enemy fire near the mountain village of Dargai. The Gordon Highlanders took up the attack, led by two pipers playing "The Cock of the North". Meeting murderous fire from above, one piper was killed; the other, George Findlater, was hit in both ankles. Findlater dragged himself behind a boulder and continued to play as his fellow Highlanders charged past him. The regiment took the ridge to the sound of Findlater’s pipes. Findlater returned home to a hero’s welcome and the Victoria Cross, pinned on his tunic by Queen Victoria herself.

Findlater’s exploit was quickly commercialized. One English company concocted the "delicious British-Indian Sauce Dargi-Dash which stimulates Health, Endurance and Courage." And cigar maker George Kelly in far-off London, Ontario, produced the Dargai cigar.

Findlater himself, however, struggled to get by on his veteran’s meagre pension and was forced to accept engagements at London music halls. For this he was severely criticized by the press and public, but his plight eventually forced the government to increase payments to all veterans—the true legacy of the hero of Dargai.