One odd but interesting-looking artifact that is in the collection of the Fenton History Center is a cigar mold. Readers may be wondering why a cigar mold is part of the collection of local history items here. Cigars were made in Jamestown in the late 1800s and early 1900s. During that period of history in the United States there were thousands of cigar manufacturers. The cigars were often made in homes and in small business establishments employing only a few workers.
Jamestown had its share of cigar makers. According to the information that came in with the cigar mold, it was used about 1910 when cigar makers could be found sitting in windows at downtown locations making cigars as passers-by watched the process. The cigars were hand-rolled, much as some are today. The filler tobacco leaves are rolled into the binder leaves, making what is called the ''bunch.'' The bunch is then pressed into a mold to make the shape of the cigar. Different cigars have different shapes. The molded bunch is then finished by the person who adds the outside wrap of tobacco leaf. The cigar band is then added. That is the simple explanation, whereas the art of making a cigar requires tobacco knowledge and much practice to develop the skill to make the ''perfect'' cigars which will burn correctly and are consistent in taste from year to year.
Looking at the city directories, we found that in 1909-10 there were 15 cigar makers listed, including two cigar maker apprentices. In the classified business section of the city directory there were nine cigar manufacturers listed, but there was no indication as to who worked for each manufacturer. In the 1895-96 city directory there were eight cigar manufacturers listed. Henry Guenther and Samuel B. Lewin appear on both lists. In 1895-96 there were 18 cigar makers listed, and the place of employment was given for some of them. There were three who worked for Samuel B. Lewin in the basement of 29 Main St. At least two worked for Cole and Jones at 8 Main St. In 1909-10, the Cigarmakers Union No. 370 met on the first Tuesday of the month in the Central Labor Hall. T.C. Fox was the secretary and he was listed as working for Anderson and Wicander at 8 South Main. Those were the only city directories consulted for this article. The rise and fall of cigar manufacturing could be traced through the other city directories.
This cigar mold from the Fenton collection was used in Jamestown at the beginning of the 20th century.
But this brings up a number of questions to which we do not have the answers at this time. Again more research could be done to find the answers to: where did the tobacco used in the cigars come from; how many different cigars were made here; who started making the first cigars here; and did they have experience from somewhere else? And probably more questions could be answered. If anyone has more information on the cigar manufacturing in Jamestown, we invite you to share it with us. We do know from orders and receipts from the Jamestown Club (the men's club that occupied the Tew House at the corner of North Main and Fifth Street) that many cigars were smoked in Jamestown in the first decade of the 1900s.
The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County's history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.
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The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.
If one of the items featured brings back some memories or brings up a question, please contact the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or firstname.lastname@example.org to share your memory or get an answer to your question.
If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St., just south of the Washington Street Bridge.