A Brief History of Cigars

Kelly Dunning
History of Cigars

Cigars are prized around the world for their complex and rich flavour and they have been enjoyed since the early 10th century. Let’s look into the history of cigars to learn more about their long and interesting story.

Historians generally believe that the cigar was invented by the ancient Mayans, who would wrap the tobacco in a palm or a plantain leave and smoke it. Archaeologists have even discovered an ancient Mayan pot from the 10th century that depicts a Mayan man puffing on one of these very early cigars.

When Christopher Columbus came over to the New World he was one of the first Westerners to discover tobacco. The local Indians showed him how they smoked the tobacco leaves and Columbus and his lieutenants quickly adapted the habit. When they brought the idea back home, smoking became quite popular in Spain and Portugal. The French ambassador to Portugal Jean Nicot popularised cigar smoking in France and nicotine was named after him. It was around this time that manufacturers in Spain started wrapping the dried tobacco in papers rather than leaves. After that, many companies started to grow tobacco and mass produce cigars.

Cuba became a very popular location to grow the tobacco plants, due to the fertile land and the warm climate. Soon a Cuban tobacco growing industry was established and sailing ships were distributing the tobacco grown in Cuba from Europe to Asia. Columbus had claimed Cuba for Spain and during this time the Spanish dominated the tobacco industry. They even placed a monopoly on the crop that lasted until 1817, forbidding any Cuban growers to sell to anyone but them.


Finest Cigars of the Americas

Popularity of Cigars Grows All Over the World

Cigars continued to grow in popularity all over the world, with the USA consuming approximately 300 million by the middle of the 19th century. Tampa, Florida became a cigar hotspot and many Cuban cigar-makers migrated there.

Cigars started to become a status symbol and a part of popular culture and a lot of famous people smoked them, including King Edward VII, Ulyssess S. Grant, Sigmund Freud, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Jordan.

In 1962 US President John F. Kennedy imposed an embargo on Cuba. Of course, before he put the embargo in place he ordered his press secretary to buy up every Cuban cigar he could find. After Kennedy had stashed approximately 1,200 of them he placed the trade embargo in effect.

This trade embargo is still in effect, which means that US citizens have discovered cigars grown in other Central American nations including Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. However, there are no restrictions on other countries purchasing Cuban cigars, so it is possible to taste them in fine cigar houses in London and other locations around the world. History has shown that a good cigar is well loved and this indulgence continues to be enjoyed as much as it was over a thousand years ago.


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