It is uncertain when the first cigar was created. It was most likely somewhere in the areas surrounding the Caribbean Sea, perhaps in Cuba or Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti) where Christopher Columbus and his merry first landed and observed the native people smoking from these strange leaves wrapped and tied in cylinder or wrapped up in palm or plantain leaves.
This early, primitive form of cigar was adopted by the Spanish and other European sailers and smoking them spread to Spain, Portugal, and France through Jean Nicot, the French ambassador who gave his name to nicotine. After, tobacco smoking and cigars reached Italy and Britain, through Sir Walter Raleigh and his voyages to the Americas.
Cigar smoking was everywhere in Europe and tobacco smoking through pipes became popular in Britain by the middle of the 16th century. By the end of the century, tobacco was being grown in the Americas commercially. Around that time, tobacco also made its way to the Philippines and spread widely across the country. Spread among Catholic missionaries, it was discovered that the soil and climate conditions in the Philippines was ideal for growing quality tobacco.
By the 1800’s, cigar smoking was very common, and cigarette smoking still very rare. The cigar business became a very important part of growing society, providing employment in factories as mechanized manufacturing of cigars became prevalent and practical.
Cigar manufacturing spread from Cuba and the Philippines up to Key West, Florida, on to the Tampa area and as far north as New York. Tampa became known as the “Cigar Capital of the World,” with thousands of people coming for the tobacco each year.
In New York, cigar rolling was a done more on an individual basis, being rolled in private homes. In 1883, it was reported that cigars were being produces in as many as 127 different apartment complexes. Those numbers equated to about 1,962 families and 7,924 employees.