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Ramòn Fernàndez - "Tampa's First Cigar"

The Tampa Cigar History is full of intersting stories, but this one was basically the one who started...

Ramòn Fernàndez born in the town of Avilèz in Asturias, Spain on January 24, 1844. Not much is known about his parents and childhood, or if he has siblings, otherwise he was a intelligent child. He also happened to be very good in math and very creative. He was around 20 years of age when he arrived to Havana, Cuba in1865. After working as cigar maker in Havana for a few years, he received an invitation to visit New York, in 1871.During that visit it's when he is introduced to Serafin Sanchez, one of the partners of the Sanchez & Haya Cigar Company, they were pleased by his craftmanship, and a little after, he is invited to be part of the firm as a floor assitant forman. In short time he was consider a trust friend by Ignacio Haya and Serafin Sanchez. At the time the company were in plans to relocated to a bigger facility in New York. Years later in 1886 the firm its ready to open a factory in Tampa Florida (south west corner of 7th Avenue and 15 th Street , Ybor City ). During this time the operation in New York and possible relocation is managed by Laureano Sanchez.In March 10, 1886 Ramòn arrived to Tampa, and started preparing for the opening of production day. No many details are known, Laureano Sanchez was the superintandent of the factory,and on Tuesday April 13, 1886, during easter week, the 42 years old old

 

 

 

 

Ramòn Fernàndez will past to the history as the man who make the first cigar in Tampa. Making that way Sanchez & Haya Cigar Co. "Factory No. 1". At the end of the first year this factory was producing 500,000 cigars per month.

No much is known about Ramòn Fernàndez personal life, aside that he got married while he worked in New York, and made Tampa his permanent residence.

He stayed with the company (Sanchez & Haya) for around 16 years after that day, and in 1902 Ignacio Haya help him to begin his own cigar business with the label "La Flor de Ramòn Fernàndez". His factory and label work with success until 1910, when after a major strike it fell in financial difficulties like many other companies at the time. The company re-bounce but a couple of years later, and at the age of 68 he retired.The company closed in 1912, the label copyrights and operation was purchase by Celestino Vega in 1913, but the label was never used again.

The master cigar maker and entrepreneur died peacefully at home in the morning of September 12, 1914, at the age of 70, surrounded by some family and friends. Until this day many people don´t remember the name of the man that made the first cigar in Tampa, he is also forgotten by historians...

 

 

This plaque was erected by Gradiaz-Annis & Company in 1962 to honor Sanchez & Haya Factory, in the corner of 7th Avenue and 15th Street. Former location of the first Cigar City Factory.

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Source: "Obscure cigar maker really the first" - Michael Canning - "Tampa Bay History Center" by Glenn Westfall - "The Beginning of Ybor City" - by Durward Long - "Tobacco Leaf " -Sep. 14, 1914 - Tampa Tribune - 1914 - USF Special Collections Photos - Florida State University Special Collections - Research by W. Reyes

 

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