Cigars industry flourished in Lebanon County

The Northeast was the major hub of activity for the industry before it spread to other parts of the country, he said.

“Philadelphia was the cigar capital of the United States throughout the 1800s, and still manufactures cigars today,” he said.

In his latest book “Tulpehocken Cigarama,” Ibach writes about the production of handmade cigars in local communities in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The area he writes about includes Richland, Newmanstown and Myerstown, which had a number of

cigar-making factories.After the Civil War, many local farmers grew tobacco. Local cigar manufacturers purchased tobacco from Lancaster and York farmers and also bought it from farmers in Kentucky, Ohio, Wisconsin, New York, Virginia, Maryland and Connecticut.

A good cigar maker could make 400 to 500 cigars a day, and the average wage was about $2 a day.

“I know that some of the tobacco strippers, like in Richland, some of the women were paid only 15 cents a day. The work day was considered 10 hours a day,” he said.

His mother also worked in the industry.

“My mother pasted various parts of cigar boxes (together) and put the etchings on. She made a dollar a day working 10 hours a day, five days a week,” he said.

Ibach said the cigar industry was one of the most important sources of income for people seeking work in the country during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Ibach said the different flavors of tobacco were made by mixing tobaccos that were grown in different soil types in each state.

There were about 27 cigar plants in Lebanon County, he said. Some of the brands they made were Conrad Weiser, El Witto and Mineota.

Ibach’s ancestor, who owned Ibach & Rader Cigar factory of Newmanstown, made brands known as Abram Clark, Flor de Morrow and Havana Favorites, to name a few. Ibach said Havana Favorites was their most popular brand.

“They used to soak or cure that tobacco in barrels of apple cider,” he said.

The formulas for making cigars “were trusted secrets between the foreman and the owner. The owner would never reveal that to anybody else because that was his bread and butter,” Ibach said.

And there were thousands of brands of cigars.

Ibach said the 18th and 19 centuries were one of the most favorable times in the history of labor for someone to go into the industry.

“It was very, very reasonable to enter the business. Therefore, you had a lot of mom-and-pop operations,” he said.

The tools and equipment needed to start a cigar business were not expensive. “It cost so little to get involved,” he said.

At the turn of the century, there were 38 cigar makers in Womelsdorf in Berks County, about 27 in Lebanon County (mostly in eastern Lebanon County) and about 769 in Philadelphia, he said.

The apex of the cigar-making industry came in 1920, he said.

“That’s when the (automated cigar-making) machine was introduced, and from that period on, the industry started to decline,” he said.

Four unskilled girls could make 4,000 cigars a day using the automated machines, he said. By comparison, four skilled (and much higher paid) men could make 1,200 cigars a day by hand.

The cigar industry also supported ancillary businesses, such as cigar-box and cigar-band makers. A cigar-box manufacturer was Benjamin Hartman, who operated a plant south of the town square in Schaefferstown.

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