Museum of Cigars.com

______________..The interactive museum of Tampa Cigar Industry... .........................

Tobacco History

The tobacco is an indigenous plant of Antillean origin, and its scientific name comes of (Nicotina Tabacum). The first news on the existence of the tobacco appear in Columbus's Diary, where the text of historical truthfulness expressed that between the November 2nd. and 5th. of 1492, the Spaniards in the Cuban coast, met the first plant of tobacco. Starting from November 6th, of that same year began the habit of using tobacco with medicinal functions and illnesses that the Spaniards were suffering.

Early Medical Use

  • 1529-Used for treating headaches, colds, abscesses, and sores
  • 1550s-known in France as "the holy plant"
  • 17th Century-possible negative health effects noted
  • 1828-active ingredient, nicotine, isolated
  • 18th and 19th Centuries-slow advances of medical science removed tobacco from doctor's prescription pad.


The natives from the Antilles called the pipe tobacco and ritual ceremonies and mixed them with other hallucinogenic substances.

Early missionaries often reported on the state caused by tobacco, but as it spread into the west, it was no longer used in such large quantities or for entheogenic purposes. Religious use of tobacco is still common among many indigenous peoples, particularly those of South America .

In 1609, John Rolfe arrived at the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia . He is credited as the first man to successfully raise tobacco for commercial use at Jamestown . The tobacco raised in Virginia at that time, Nicotiana rustica , was not to the liking of the Europeans, but Rolfe had brought some seed for Nicotiana tabacum with him from Bermuda . Shortly after arriving, his first wife died, and he married Pocahontas, a daughter of Chief Powhatan.

Although most of the settlers wouldn't touch the tobacco crop, Rolfe was able to make his fortune farming it for export at Varina Farms Plantation. When he left for England with Pocahontas, he was wealthy. When Rolfe returned to Jamestown following Pocahontas's death in England , he continued to improve the quality of tobacco. By 1620, 40,000 pounds of tobacco were shipped to England . By the time John Rolfe died in 1622, Jamestown was thriving as a producer of tobacco and Jamestown 's population would top 4,000. Tobacco led to the importation of the colony's first black slaves as well as women from England in 1619.

Slaves processing tobacco in Virginia 1670...

The importation of tobacco into Europe was not without resistance and controversy, even in the 17th century. King James I of England (James VI of Scotland ) wrote a famous polemic titled A Counterblaste to Tobacco in 1604 (published in 1672). In his essay, the king denounced tobacco use as "[a] custom loathsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse." In that same year, an English statute was enacted that placed a heavy protective tariff on every pound of tobacco brought into England .

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, tobacco continued to be the "cash crop" of the Virginia Colony, along with The Carolinas. Large tobacco warehouses filled the areas near the wharfs of new thriving towns such as Richmond and Manchester at the fall line (head of navigation) on the James River, and Petersburg on the Appomattox River .

Until 1883, tobacco excise tax accounted for one third of internal revenue collected by the United States government.

A historian of the American South in the late 1860s reported on typical usage in the region where it was grown:

The chewing of tobacco was well-nigh universal. This habit had been widespread among the agricultural population of America both North and South before the war. Soldiers had found the quid a solace in the field and continued to revolve it in their mouths upon returning to their homes.

Out of doors where his life was principally led the chewer spat upon his lands without offence to other men, and his homes and public buildings were supplied with spittoons. Brown and yellow parabolas were projected to right and left toward these receivers, but very often without the careful aim which made for cleanly living. Even the pews of fashionable churches were likely to contain these familiar conveniences. The large numbers of Southern men, and these were of the better class (officers in the Confederate army and planters, worth $20,000 or more, and barred from general amnesty) who presented themselves for the pardon of President Johnson, while they sat awaiting his pleasure in the ante-room at the White House, covered its floor with pools and rivulets of their spittle.

An observant traveler in the South in 1865 said that in his belief seven-tenths of all persons above the age of twelve years, both male and female, used tobacco in some form. Women could be seen at the doors of their cabins in their bare feet, in their dirty one-piece cotton garments, their chairs tipped back, smoking pipes made of corn cobs into which were fitted reed stems or goose quills. Boys of eight or nine years of age and half-grown girls smoked. Women and girls "dipped" in their houses, on their porches, in the public parlors of hotels and in the streets.

For other hand Florida 's cigar industry began at Key West in 1831, when W.H. Hall chose the island city as a site for a factory, because of its climate and its proximity to Cuba tobacco fields. By 1853, Vicente Martinez Ybor had established his own factory in Cuba and was very successful. In 1868, with open revolution and business demoralization in Havana , many cigar makers migrated to Key West, where established factories offered employment. By the middle of the 1870's had become a leading Havana cigar manufacturing center in the nation and the largest community in Florida , with a population of eighteen thousand. In part to the imposition by U.S. Congress of the “ Morrison Act” Sec.541-(1880), which provided special high excise taxes to cigars made outside the United States , but not to raw material, in an attempt to spur domestic production of cigars. The result proved advantageous for manufacturers like Vicente Martinez Ybor, who had already moved his cigar manufacturing concern from Cuba to Key West prior to the outbreak of the “Ten Years War” with Spain in 1868.

When fire swept the city in 1886, destroying the larger factories, and labor disputes further disrupted production, the majority of the manufacturers moved their plants to a district east of Tampa , which they named Ybor City for Vicente Martinez Ybor, one of their leaders in Key West and in Tampa . In 1886 Tampa cigar industry began and ten years later became the "Capitol Cigar of the World".

During the first part of the 1900's tobacco consumption was primary for cigars and pipe tobacco. After the 1930's machine made cigars and cigarettes were the major consumer of raw material. Then in the 1940's cigarettes took control of the market and major areas of tobacco production in the United States were created. While machine made cigars were in style based on price and low quality of raw material available. During the 60's and after Cuban embargo many other countries develop plantations to fill the gap for premium tobacco especially needed for hand made cigars

In mid 1990's the cigars came back with force and created a market for the premium tobacco for hand made cigars.







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