The Origins of the Cigar Box

The Origins of the Cigar Box

Cigar boxes have always felt like a special place for storing cherished things. As kids, many of us have used cigar boxes to save treasured items like marbles, stones, feathers, pencils and more. Haven’t you ever wondered about how the cigar box came to be? Why use a cedar box? And who came up with those memorable designs and stamps on them?

Originally, cigars were sold in bundles covered with pig’s bladders with a smidgen of vanilla to improve the smell. They were then packed in barrels of 10,000 but it became clear that a new way needed to be found to package them in smaller bundles for the average buyer. In 1830, H. Upman, a banking firm, began shipping cigars in cedar boxes stamped with the bank’s emblem. Cedar boxes were used to prevent the cigars from drying out.

The cedar box is sometimes referred to as Boite nature. Paper, usually colored, is normally glued to the interior of the box and used to cover the cigars. After being filled and checked, the box is nailed shut and sealed with a green and white label to guarantee that the cigars are genuine Havanas. This practice continues today, Cuban, or not.

According to Anwer Ali Khan, “Hecho en Cuba has been stamped on the underside of Cuban boxes since 1961, when it replaced the English inscription "Made in Havana--Cuba." Since 1985, they have also carried a factory code and Cubatabaco's logo, the latter being replaced with Habanos SA from late 1994. In 1989 the words "Totalmente a Mano" were added. Meaning "totally by Hand."

The idea of using colorful lithographic labels which is still used on all handmade brands, came from Ramon Allones, A Galician immigrant to Cuba who started this in 1837, As the industry grew, so did the need for clear identification therefore labels and illustrations were created to put inside the lids of many Havana brands. Eventually, all cigar manufacturers created their own designs to set their brand apart from other cigar makers.

Throughout the years, cigar packaging was overseen by the US government. In 1870, the government decided that using tin for cigar boxes was acceptable. Then, in 1878, the government passed another law, allowing cigars to be packaged in novelty style boxes that were shaped similar to cars, buildings, and other toy-like themes. Finally in 1910, a new law was introduced, which allowed cigar manufacturers to sell cigars in packs of 5 and 10, including both large and small sized cigars.

Today, you can purchase cigars individually or in these stylized cedar boxes. Next time you purchase a box of cigars, take notice of the design and packaging. Now you know the history.