Cigars have always been identified with celebration, pleasure and the good life. As a result, no tobacco product has been more associated with Christmas than the cigar. Each year, from 1880 to 1920, the eight week holiday season saw more than 25,000,000 boxes of cigars sold. By early November shelves were stocked with attractive holiday packaging in all price ranges, from two for a nickel cigars to those selling for a buck each (the typical turn-of-the-century domestic cigar sold for 5¢ to 2/25¢).
A National Cigar History Museum Exclusive
Cigars were popular gifts because they could be given cross-gender, cross-age and cross social class. Cigars were an appropriate present from a robber baron to his chauffeur, a maiden aunt to her nephew, or an unmarried woman to her paramour. Sons could give them to their father, women to their tradesmen, parishioners to their priest, drunks to their bartender and students to their mentors.
Cigars appear to have been the first widely available commercial product to create special packaging for the holidays. By late summer, label companies deluged cigar factories and wholesalers with labels, flaps, and edging designed for boxes to sell during the holiday season. The earliest known Christmas cigar boxes date from the 1860’s and by the 1880’s a shopper would have hundreds of brands, prices and package designs from which to choose. Because they were associated with pleasant memories, Christmas boxes often became keepsakes, surviving in fine condition. Today, they are avidly sought by collectors of advertising, packaging and cigar collectibles.
Vintage Cigar Box Christmas History
In the 1940’s and 50’s the American Tobacco Company attempted to convince people that cigarettes were also an appropriate gift by decorating cartons of Lucky Strike and Pall Malls with printed holly, but those feeble efforts pale into insignificance compared with the glorious Christmas cigar boxes created during the Golden Age (1878-1915) by cigar makers, wholesalers and retailers.
This exhibit is selected from the packaging collection of Hyman’s National Cigar History Museum for your holiday pleasure and year-round edification.
Text and images © Tony Hyman, all rights reserved cigarhistory.info