Battle of the Brands
During the Golden Age of the cigar in North America, roughly 1880-1930, the cigar store display case was a merchandising battle ground. Ranks of open-lidded cigar boxes, arrayed side-by-side, fought for the cigar buyer's attention.
The sales pitch on many boxes had little or nothing to do with cigars. Their labels caught the customer's eye with attractive colour illustrations of celebrities or important events of the day, or perhaps attractive women. These labels today provide a "snapshot" of Canada in that period (see Canada in a Box: Canadian Cigar Containers 1883-1935).
But other cigar makers took a different approach: they opted to promote the product itself. No local beauties on their labels, no famous actors, no politicians: they sold their cigar as a cigar—a Smoke.
Cigar box labels pitching the cigar itself drew the buyer into the smoking experience. They constructed a romance of the cigar—its origins in tropical climes (Cuba, for preference), or its manufacture by skilled artisans. They promoted the cigar as a sensuous and desirable object. They depicted the cigar box as a cornucopia of delights, and portrayed the world as one where everyone smoked.
In this smoker's world, said each label, their cigar stood out: it was an agricultural marvel, a craftsman's masterpiece, a technological miracle, an international prize winner, a luxury worthy of the rich and powerful, a gift of the gods.