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History of the Cigar Store Indian

The rich history of the Cigar Store Indian statue goes back as far as 1600s and still holds an important place for cigar shops in the US.

In the 1600s, as ships from America began to bring tobacco to England, cigar shop owners displayed carved Indians in front of their stores as a symbol of the introduction of tobacco by Native Americans. American Indians were the original subjects for the figures, because they had, after all, introduced Christopher Columbus and his crew to tobacco.

The early carvings were made by artisans who had never seen a Native American. Therefore, the statues looked more like black men or “Virginians” with feathered headdresses wearing kilts made of tobacco. Eventually, the European tobacco shop figure began to take on a more “authentic” look. By the late 18th century, the statue had become completely “Indian” in the Americas.

By the 1850s, American cities were growing in size and there were more tobacco stores. This is the time when the cigar store Indian began appearing on American streets. Due to the level of illiteracy and a large non-English speaking population, shop owners used figures, emblems, and symbols to advertise their wares. Barbershops displayed the iconic barbershop red and white poles, and tobaccos shops placed the wooden Indian in front of the store as an advertisement… read more >

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