Selling Smoke
Selling Smoke

How Canadian Cigar Boxes Pitched Their Wares  1883-1935


From 1880 to 1930, nearly every Canadian-made cigar had a tropical pedigree. Its tobacco had been grown, harvested, and cured in one or more hot, humid places: the West Indies (mostly), South America (frequently), or islands in the South Seas (particularly Sumatra). This tobacco was shipped to Canada and hand rolled by local cigar makers into the finished item.

Cigar box labels portrayed this journey from seed to cigar in idealized images that stressed the picturesque or exotic.

 Shipping Views

These two boxes make the shipping phase in a cigar's life history come alive.

Cigar box label : Savannah   On the Savannah box label, the realistic looking "hand" of tobacco is tied with rough cord and an inked-in label; the veins on the leaves are embossed so they stand out like the real thing.
Trimmed nailed wood box (25)
Factory 21 IRD 32 Series of 1897
Stirton & Dyer, London, Ont.
CMC 2004.38.6 | D2006-01805

Cigar box label : Baled Havanas   The Baled Havanas box—rough hewn, unevenly tacked together, and crudely inscribed—wittily evokes the packing crate: paper labels are attached in a slapdash fashion, as if by different hands at different stages of its journey.
Trimmed nailed wood box (50)
Factory 9 IRD 17 Series of 1897
Jose Gaste Co. / Mi Linda Cigar Co., London, Ont.
CMC 2004.38.32 | D2004-19466
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 From Plantation…

Images of dark skin, white trousers, and someone else’s labour under tropical palms draw the customer’s eye with the promise of exotic products for privileged consumers.

Cigar box label : First Pick  
Trimmed nailed wood box (50)
Factory 19 IRD 26 Series of 1883
The National Cigar, Toronto, Ont.
CMC 2003.46.21 | S2003-3209
Cigar box label : Royal Punch  
Trimmed nailed wood box (50)
Factory 16 IRD 30 Series of 1883
H.O. Sontag or J. White, Hamilton, Ont.
CMC 2004.216.4 | D2005-17225
Cigar box label : Net Results  
Net Results
Trimmed nailed wood box (100)
Factory 12 Port 10-D Series of 1924
H. or J. Sauvageau, Montreal, Que.
CMC 2003.46.80 | S2004-281
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 … To Factory

Some manufacturers suggested the dependable quality of their product by showing the factory where the product was made: solid, established, reliable. The Bell Cigar Company, on the other hand, seems to have gone in the opposite direction with a whimsical, punning depiction of its factory as a huge inhabited bell.

Cigar box label : Blackstone  
Trimmed nailed wood box (25)
Factory 6 Port 10-D Series of 1922
General Cigar Company Limited, Montreal, Que.
CMC 2003.46.39 | S2003-3263
Cigar box label : El Maska "Chica"  
El Maska "Chica"
Trimmed nailed wood box (50)
Factory 3 IRD 12 Series of 1897
The Emporium Cigar Co., Ste-Hyacinthe, Que.
CMC 2003.46.103 | S2004-125
Cigar box label : The Bell Cigar  
The Bell Cigar
Trimmed nailed wood box (50)
Factory 2 IRD 6 ca. 1884-1905
The Bell Cigar Company, St. John, N.B.
CMC 2003.46.50 | S2003-3296
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