by Lonnie HermanLonnie Herman 2

Legend has it that the cigar was invented in 1987 by Joe Howden of Ybor City….no, wait, that’s not right… The first cigar smokers are generally acknowledged to be a splinter group of Mormons that refused to go to Salt Lake Cigar because of the absence of fine tobacco…hmmm. That doesn’t sound correct either.

The actual truth is that, when it comes to the origins of the cigar, your guess is as good as mine. Wait – that might not be on the money, either. My guess is probably better than yours, because I spent 4 hours researching the subject.

Here’s some stuff we do know –

The Mayans had a word, sicar, that supposedly meant “to smoke rolled tobacco leaves”, but then again, who believes anything the Mayans say anymore. There is a ceramic pot that was discovered in Guatemala that dates to the tenth century which depicts a Mayan smoking tobacco leaves tied together with a string. This method is still sold to tourists by some of the smaller cigar shops along Seventh Avenue today.

Columbus gets the call for bringing tobacco to Europe. During his voyage of 1492, two of Columbus’ crewmen, Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres, encountered tobacco for the first time on the Island of Hispanola, which is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The natives presented them with dry leaves that spread a peculiar fragrance. Once Rodrigo and Luis got over the munchies, they brought some back to Columbus. He took it along home since the leaves did not take much room and didn’t cut into the space he needed for all the looting he was doing. Besides, it had a calming effect on his crew, who would partake and then sit around listening to accordion music and playing with their sextons for hours at a time. All thoughts of mutiny had vanished!

In due course, as all things must, smoking tobacco became a fad, popular among the Spanish and other European sailors. When not enslaving the Incas and destroying centuries of their indigenous culture, the Conquistadors in South America would sit back, put their feet up and puff away. Cigar popularity soared and spread to France, brought by the French ambassador to Portugal, Jean Nicot, a man we still honor today with the always amusing term of “nicotine”.

Now you know as much as me.

Except for this:

Sigmund Freud smoked 20 cigars a day and had a difficult time finding someone who would kiss him.

Ulysses S. Grant smoked up to 12 cigars a day. He’d spend hours in his tent with his officers, talking about current events and looking things up on Google.

Groucho Marx once told a woman contestant on “You Bet Your Life” who had eight children and said she loved her husband, that he loved his cigar but he took it out of his mouth once in a while.

Queen Victoria banned all tobacco from her court, but when, upon her death from grouchiness, her son, the Prince of Wales, ascended to the throne he immediately proclaimed, “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, men!”  By the way, that’s exactly why Vicente Martinez Ybor named the cigar he produced in Ybor City “The Prince of Wales”. Senor Ybor was known for his wry wit.

Well, if you got ‘em, you can smoke ‘em too, and if you don’t, visit Don Barco at King Corona. He’ll set you up.