"Cigar City” is still a nickname of the city of Tampa, but its cigar days ended in 1959 when Fidel Castro took power and trade with Cuba halted.
Cuba sent its tobacco to both Tampa and Key West, and the cigars were manufactured there. Most of the trade started after the Spanish-American War of 1898. By about 1910, Tampa had its “Cigar City” nickname. The cigar business was the largest business in town. Most of America’s Cuban cigars came by way of Tampa.
If trade re-opens with Cuba, perhaps Tampa could become a cigar city again?
For many years the cigar industry was the only large-scale manufacturing activity in Tampa. It represented a very important financial resource to the region, one that flourished until the early 1960s, when embargos against Cuban tobacco, combined with declining cigar consumption, finally made “The Cigar City” a thing of the past.
St. Petersburg Times
Cigar maker left imprint on city
Angel Cuesta walked with kings, endeared himself to charity groups and helped put Tampa cigars on the map.
By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 13, 2003
Though small in stature, Angel Cuesta stood large in his industry. During Tampa’s “Cigar City” heyday, he co-founded of one of its biggest cigar makers. Cuesta furthered his reputation with charitable works here and in his homeland, which earned him the respect of his competitors and even a nod from European royalty.
Angel LaMadrid Cuesta was born in Asturias, Spain, in 1858. He arrived in Havana, Cuba, in 1873, attended school for two years, and then apprenticed as a cigar maker. He later rolled cigars in Key West and New York, and by 1884 opened a small factory in Atlanta.
Cuesta moved to Tampa in 1893 and set up a small cigar factory in Port Tampa. Two years later, he joined with Peregrino Rey to form Cuesta-Rey and Co., which was based in West Tampa. Cuesta would also go on to organize cigar companies in Jacksonville and Havana.
In the meantime, Cuesta-Rey became one of the largest factories in Tampa.
12 December 1900, Fort Wayne Morning Journal-Gazette, pg. 8:
HAVANA CIGARS AT 5 CENTS.
Abundant Tobacco Crop in Cuba
Makes Reduction Probable.
Clear Havana cigars at 5 cents each may soon be within the smoker’s reach. The most abundant crop of Havana tobacco known since the beginning of Cuba’s troubles with Spain will be gathered this season and heavy shipments are beginning to arrive in Chicago from Tampa and Key West. The business between Chicago and the two Florida towns has grown so fast within the last two months that Chicago firms are building new factories there and Florida manufacturers are adding plants. Tampa and Key West have imported more tobacco from Havana this year than twice the amount received by all the other ports of the country combined.
27 January 1910, Washington Post, pg. 4:
“Key West is a cigar city. We make every year 100,000,000 cigars. There is hardly a cigar that goes out of Key West that is not made of Havana tobacco. We are able to do this because of our proximity to Cuba, Havana being only 90 miles away. Key West has an almost perfect climate. It seldom is warner than 88 degrees, and I never have known the thermometer to go higher than 90, while frost never has been known.”
3 October 1910, Mansfield (Ohio) News, pg. 10:
“Seventy-five per cent of the better quality of Havana goods are manufactured at Tampa, Fla.” said a down town dealer last night.
15 June 1912, Fort Wayne (IN) Journal-Gazette, pg. 13 ad:
SOMETHING ABOUT TAMPA, FLORIDA.
Tampa produces more clear Havana cigars than any city in the world, 300,000,000 last year.
12 February 1915, Kingston (NY) Daily Freeman, pg. 4:
Many noted Americans and foreign diplomats have attended Tampa’s celebrations in the past, and a larger number will accept the “Cigar City’s” hospitality this year as the tourist season is at its height.
12 February 1927, Atlanta Constitution, pg. 8:
Tampa was second with quite a gap between the cigar city golfers and league leaders.
25 July 1936, Chicago Defender, pg. 4:
Mrs. Blanche Armwood-Washington, formerly of Tampa, Fla., for years supervisor of public school in the cigar city, is concluding a course in law at Howard university.
28 May 1948, Washington Post, pg. B4:
Lagay invaded Tampa for that fight. Wollman was advised by other managers here to have his gladiator fight somebody else and somewhere else. Gomez, they pointed out, was the idol of the Cigar City and had an awful wallop.
Florida (Sunshine State Dictionary) • (1) Comments • Tuesday, August 15, 2006 • Permalink
"Cuba sent its tobacco to both Tampa and Key West, and the cigars were manufactured there. Most of the trade started after the Spanish-American War of 1898. By about 1910, Tampa had its “Cigar City” nickname. The cigar business was the largest business in town. Most of America’s Cuban cigars came by way of Tampa.
If trade re-opens with Cuba, perhaps Tampa could become a cigar city again? “
It’s not likely that trade with cuba will happen anytime soon. Unfortunately, though the cuban government talks big about doing business with the USA they are very interested in controlling the people in Cuba also…
Not going to happen until the Castros are gone.