historyIt is popularly believed that Christopher Columbusí historic expedition to the New World is when Europeans first encountered cigars. As the tale goes, two of his crewmen are said to have disembarked in Cuba, where they observed Cuban Indians smoking a substance that they later describe as dried tobacco wrapped in leaves. Eventually, Spanish sailors caught the habit, and smoking spread through Spain and Portugal and eventually other parts of Europe.

Cigars as we know them today were first produced in Spain in the early 1700ís, using Cuban tobacco. By the 1790ís, cigar production had grown to include factories in France and Germany. The Dutch, also, started manufacturing cigars using non Cuban tobacco. The production of cigars in Britain began in the 1820ís, prompting the British Parliament to create regulations concerning their production. By this time in Britain, the foreign cigar had become a luxury item, largely because of an import tax levied against them.

Due to a demand for high quality cigars in Europe, The Spanish cigar production was eventually surpassed by that of the Cubans, which was a Spanish Colony at the time, and had been producing cigars since the mid 1700ís.

It is believed that the cigar arrived in America by the 1760ís. Israel Putnam, a British soldier returning from Cuba to his home in Connecticut, is said to have returned with large amounts of Cuban tobacco seed. Eventually factories were set up in Connecticut to process the tobacco grown from Cuban seed, and by the early 1800ís production really started to take off. Cuban imports also started to increase by considerable numbers, yet cigar smoking itself did not become popular in the US until the 1860ís, by which time it had become a status symbol.

The smoking of fine cigars had become so popular with gentlemen in Europe that trains designated smoking carts, while hotels and clubs created smoking rooms. The tradition of smoking an after dinner cigar accompanied by port or brandy, became synonymous with the high class.

Cigarettes were created as a cheap alternative to cigars, and the arrival of cigarette making machines further popularized the cigarette, which in turn forced cigar manufactures to start producing machine made cigars by the 1920ís. Thus began the decline of the handmade variety.

Recently, we have seen resurgence in the popularity of cigar smoking. This is due in part to celebrity endorsement, but also, the realization that some of our finer traditions still have a relevant place in todayís world.