While the history of the cigar goes much further back in the annals of time than the American Civil War, that is when cigar smoking really started to become popular in the United States. Even though the first cigar factory in the nation opened right here in A-Listers Cigar Club’s home state of Connecticut, in Hartford in the year 1810. Then President John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) was by all measure a cigar devotee, it was not until the war however, that the love of the stogie really caught on.
Some areas of the country later became famous for cigars. Conestoga, Pennsylvania for instance, produced some of the best-known cigars in America, including the long stick named after the town. Key West, Florida also became a thriving cigar region during this period, driven mostly by Cubans who had fled colonial rule. But it would not be until the 1920s that a machine-made, mass produced cigar became cheap enough for the general public’s love for cigars to catch fire, so to speak.
In 1919, Woodrow Wilson’s VP, Thomas Marshall famously said, “What this country really needs is a good five-cent cigar.” With mass production, the Vice President had his wish.
Many US Presidents have been cigar aficionados, but probably none more so than J.F.K. – The story is told of how the night before Kennedy signed the Cuban Trade Embargo, he had Pierre Salinger, his press secretary, procure 1,200 Cuban Petit Upmanns, the Presidents favorite cigar. As soon as JFK took delivery of the precious cargo, he pulled the embargo document from his desk drawer and signed into law. It is said that some of those Upmanns still remained in Kennedy’s private humidor when it sold at auction in 1996 to Cigar Aficionado publisher Marvin Shanken for $574,000.
Fortunately, for those of us with less hefty bank reserves, Many of Cuba’s finest cigar manufacturers fled the country to set up shop elsewhere. Typically, they used tobacco grown in other parts of the Caribbean, but it means we can afford to buy some of those venerable brands, such as Hoyo de Monterrey, Romeo y Julieta, Cifuentes and H. Upmann today.
Surprisingly, some of the best cigar wrapper leaf in the world is produced right here in the old Nutmeg State, Connecticut. Grown under ten-foot-high gauze tents that shade the delicate leaves from the sun’s rays, hence the wrapper name “Connecticut Shade”. The growing and curing process is expensive in the Northeast, which adds to the cost of cigars using a Connecticut Shade wrapper, but as far as we’re concerned, it is well worth it … although, being from Connecticut, we may be a little partial.