ThinkCigar – Spirited Smoke

The Birth of a Cigar Nation

News flash…it’s not Cuba !


We smoke, we buy sell and trade our favorite sticks, we’re in love with everything cigar (at least I am), and here in the US, always chasing the “White Wale”, El Capitan…the Cuban cigar.  The romantic thoughts and images, friends and family members bringing a few back from their cruises and trips abroad; chests puffed-up and poked-out as they present them to you, the holy grail of cigars, spoils of their great crusade.

cuban cigars thinkcigar

The history of our infatuation with these rolled delights is rooted much closer to our American soil than one might think…most know very well of the pre-embargo availability of Cuban cigars; but how many of us are truly aware that the cigar capitol of the world is (or was) in the United States of America.  Confused ?  I bet you are, you see boys and girls from Key West, to Tampa FL by way of Cuba is how this thing unfolds.  In the 1830s, commercial cigar rolling began in Florida, by Cuban immigrants.

New York cigar manufacturer Samuel Seidenberg (a German immigrant himself), established the first “clear Cuban” cigar factory in Key West in 1867.  Using Cuban laborers to roll Cuban tobacco Mr. Seidenberg, pioneered the idea of making authentic Cuban cigars in America, while avoiding the high tariff levied against products from Havana, as well as the trade restrictions imposed by Spain.

There was a strong natural connection between cigar workers in Key West and Havana, and by the early 1890s, 50,000-100,000 people traveled back and forth annually.

Havana cigar shop Key West (Havana cigar shop Key West FL, )


Cuban cigar makers create a new Florida city


Vicente Martinez Ybor, one of the most significant figures in the history of cigar making in Florida, established a cigar factory in Key West in 1869. Ybor had run a very successful cigar manufacturing business in Cuba, but he fled the country after colonial authorities discovered his connections with revolutionaries.

In 1885, he moved his cigar making operation from Key West to Tampa. Steamships could bring tobacco leaves from Cuba for the cigar factories, and Henry Plant’s new railroad connected the small town of Tampa to the rest of the country. The area around the cigar factories grew and became known as Ybor City.

Immigrants came not just from Cuba, but from Italy, Spain, and throughout Eastern Europe and Latin America in search of work. At its height in the 1880s, there were more than 100 factories in Key West. By 1910, there were 150 factories in the Tampa area employing more than 10,000 workers. Of the 50,000 residents of Tampa, 14,000 were Cuban, 7,500 were Spanish, and 1,500 were Italian.  (informational facts from Florida Memory)

There is so much more rich and incredible history that belongs to this phenomena:

  • Mutual Aid Societies
  • Social Clubs
  • Paulina Pedroso
  • Jose Marti
  • The Spanish-American war and Cuban independence


The complete history is available for anyone so inclined to pursue, so I won’t try to capture it here in it’s entirety; but I gotta tell you, as a cigar guy I find this interesting as hell.  By 1900 Ybor city was considered the cigar capitol of the world…not Cuba, but a carved out spot in hot-ass Tampa Florida.  It was thriving.

Cuban club thinkcigar

For more than 50 years Ybor city shined with approximately 150 cigar factories employing and supporting many workers and families, a small buzzing community built for and around the production of fine cigars had come together in a very meaningful way.  Our country had fallen in love with the craftsmanship of fine hand rolled cigars, an art form passed down through families…fathers to sons, mothers to daughters, enjoyed by many a cigar fan during that time.

Innovation !

We the people often times look to push through our accepted norms…this time in a way that would have an unforeseen affect on premium cigars.  In 1917, a cigar rolling machine was invented that could roll 4,000 sticks per day, and by 1928 more than 50 % of cigars were made by machines.  Ybor city began to slowly decline.

Ybor city thinkcigar

Our appetite for advanced machinery had placed it’s filthy hands around the neck of our home-grown Cuban cigar bonanza while we slept.  Mother F***er !  But some things refuse to die; while Ybor city, hasn’t reached it’s previously glory, it has surely refused to disappear.

Ybor city thinkcigar

I have to say that upon learning the real history of the Cuban cigar connection to Ybor city, really fascinated me…but in all of my cigar conversations with friends and foe, I never hear of this rich history.  While I’m not of Cuban decent (I was born in Bradenton FL), I’m extremely proud of these facts that link the people, the struggle, the tobacco, the art and passion that made this all possible.

There are many other stories that I will write about in the future that were born in Ybor city; but for now I hope this has educated and entertained the reader.  Glad to spend this time you, it’s Friday and a good cigar awaits your arrival; don’t disappoint and enjoy your smoke.

ThinkCigar…It’s a lifestyle


cigar smoking and news



So what exactly is a stogie anyway ?

The dictionary says “its a long thin inexpensive cigar


arnold stogie thinkcigar (pic by


Arnold famously yelled out on a movie set “where the f**k are my stogies”…like only the Terminator could.  I think of Winston Churchill, George Burns, Groucho Marx, Bluto, or a host of other old-school characters.  But why is it called a Stogie ?

I was recently in Providence, RI at a smoke shop (Broadway cigars), talking to my good friend and longtime cigar aficionado Mr. Karl Pease, who like he often does, started dropping cigar knowledge at a rapid pace (the man knows his sh**), he began to explain the origins of the word Stogie or stogy spelled by some…instead of trying to remember everything he said, I found an identical explanation on “Blog of Answers”  Tobacco was picked up from the natives of the East Indies and introduced to Europe by the Spanish in the sixteenth century. The English word cigar is from the Spanish cigarro, which they took from cigarrales, a Cuban word meaning a place of leisure. Stogie is an abbreviation of Conestoga, and because the drivers of that wagon company (based in tobacco country) always had a roll-your-own cigar stuck in their mouths, observers called them stogies.

stogie stogy churchill thinkcigar

What is a stogie cigar ?  Why are they are they called stogie cigars ?

The questions are many and the answers can be, well, let’s just say off-the-mark at best.  You may put this in the useless information category or just not give a rat’s ass…frankly Charlotte, well you know the rest.  Hey, we cigar folks this kinda stuff, it’s part of who we are…we like to think we know sh** about these subjects related to our cigar lifestyle.

george burns stogie thinkcigar

I’m sure there are many stogie stories out there, images of fathers and uncles, construction workers, sexy women in more recent times…the culture is rich with lot’s of examples; hopefully I have given you some food for thought and a raised eye brow ( like oh, didn’t know that), no need to thank me, i’m here for your amusement…lol.

I hope your next cigar is the best one yet.  Thinkcigar…it’s a lifestyle !

cigar smoking and news


Why do we smoke cigars ?

Indeed, why do we do it;


So many ways to address this question…to give an answer that might satisfy, may prove to be difficult; because the person asking the question most likely has never indulged in occasional cigar smoking, and therefore my have difficulty coming to terms with the answers given.

I imagine it might be helpful to lend some historical value to the subject at hand before we start waxing all nostalgic about our grandfathers and great uncles sucking on some retro sticks at family gatherings.

Our good friend Wikipedia states:

A cigar is a rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco leaves made to be smoked. They are produced in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. Since the 20th century, almost all cigars are made up of three distinct components: the filler, the binder leaf which holds the filler together, and a wrapper leaf, which is often the best leaf used. Often the cigar will have a band printed with the cigar manufacturer’s logo. Modern cigars often come with 2 bands, especially Cuban Cigar bands, showing Limited Edition (Edicion Limitada) bands displaying the year of production.

Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities primarily in Central America and the islands of the Caribbean, including Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, and Puerto Rico; it is also produced in the Eastern United States, the Mediterranean countries of Italy and Spain (in the Canary Islands), and in Indonesia and the Philippines of Southeast Asia.

The origins of cigar smoking are still unknown. A Guatemalan ceramic pot dating back to the tenth century features Mayan smoking tobacco leaves tied together with a string.

We could also talk about how Columbus brought back tobacco products to Europe; but we’ll let you handle that bit of research…the real point, it’s been going on for a long-ass-time.

Lets get personnel

thinkcigar it's a lifestyle

It’s time to point the barrel of this question right at my head…let’s get singular, why do I smoke cigars, me, this kid, this guy…”because I freakin love em” lol.  Ok seriously, I have my reasons and justifications: (1) a decent cigar takes me from 45 minutes to an hour to finish which in-turn guarantees me an hour for myself (2) it’s ritualistic in it’s preparation…the way you cut your cigar, the way you light your cigar pretty much remain consistent (3) your smoking environment is for the most part of your choosing.  These are things that very much appeal to me, and most of the enthusiasts that I know.

In the beginning it’s about developing your palette and figuring out your tolerances, learning the differences of mild, medium, and bold, the differences of smoking before or after a meal…do you like scotch, rum or wine with your smoke; or just pounding some beer with it.  Depending on what I’m smoking , and when i’m smoking will influence what I’m choosing to drink (if at all).

Having a cigar for me is like being on a short vacation, some of my most clear and lucid thinking has been achieved, while I’ve been on holiday; in and out of the country, and for the short respites’ I enjoy while enjoying my favorite cigars.  Because of the cigar I enjoy the friendship of people that I would have never met, relationships that have enriched my life.  Different politics, religion, races, gender, economic backgrounds are all transcended for that hour…while I’ve given you a lot to digest for my reasons; it barely scratches the surface.


If you’ve noticed, I haven’t mentioned anything about taste and flavor…this thing is so much more than that.  It’s a lifestyle.