My Last Cigar

The beguiling story of the most popular American college song of the late-19th century

The Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society has a library of over 300 books on the manufacture, use, and promotion of tobacco from the 19th century to the present. Most were acquired from Benjamin Rapaport, a prolific author on pipes and the foremost authority on antiquarian tobacco books. Other books were donated by Franklin Dunn from the collection of his late brother Tom Dunn, an expert on pipes. In the spring of 2023, while perusing a volume from 1888 of TOBACCO, a weekly British tobacco trade publication for importers, exporters, manufacturers, and retailers, I was intrigued by an article reprinted from a Chicago newspaper about a song, “My Last Cigar,” whose popularity was exceeded only by “Home Sweet Home.” As I looked for more information about it, I found several lovely recordings, two of which are included here.  I also learned that a  few years ago, the Reverend Dan Morrison, a member of the Doylestown, Pennsylvania-based fraternal society, Rascals, Rogues, and Rapscallions, devoted to scholarly research on obscure topics, set out to find the origins of the song that the group sings at the close of every meeting. This exhibition features his fascinating story and includes a gallery of cigar labels and advertisements from the Center’s collection.

Alan Blum, MD
Director, The Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society

“‘IT WAS MY LAST CIGAR.’
A SONG WRITTEN IN NEW HAVEN AND ALMOST AS POPULAR AS ‘HOME, SWEET HOME.'”

Article in TOBACCO  (London: “A MONTHLY TRADE JOURNAL FOR THE Importer, Exporter, Manufacturer, and Retailer of Tobacco.”)
Reprinted from The Chicago Mail
May 1, 1888

Second-Hand Smoke: James Maurice Hubbard and the Search for the Elusive Author and Composer of America’s Second Favorite Song  (31 pages)

Written by Rev. Daniel Paul Morrison, M.A., M.Div.
Fellow of the Doylestown Institute
Published by King of Patagonia Press
Bryn Athlyn, Pennsylvania
2019

The Reverend Dr. Daniel Paul Morrison of Huntingdon Valley Presbyterian Church in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, relates his fascinating quest to discover the author of “My Last Cigar,” one of the most popular songs in the US and Europe in the late-19th century. (11:34)

“It was an 1860 Amherst College student songbook [Songs of Amherst] that provided the crucial clue…”

Lyrics, “My Last Cigar”
In SONGS OF AMHERST (8-page excerpt)

Published by the Class of ’62
Northampton, Massachusetts: Metcalf & Company
1860

“Joy and sadness, turned to song,
Still keep ringing, loud and long.”
–Goethe

[The complete songbook is available here:
https://archive.org/details/songsamherst00phipgoog/page/n34/mode/2up]

“My Last Cigar” (03:37)

From “SONGS, BALLADS & HYMNS IN HONOUR OF THE CIGAR”
Huelgas Ensemble

“My Last Cigar” (03:17)

From “Songs of the Civil War”
The 97th Regimental String Band

A selection of cigar boxes and cigar labels from the collection of the Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society

Alan Blum, MD comments on one of the most fascinating items in the collection of the Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society. (01:34)

“JOE MIChL’S FIFTY LITTLE ORPHANS”

Cigar store advertisement by Jos. Michl, Decatur, Illinois for the “Little Orphan” cigar
Circa 1900

“Cigar Box Sirens” (9 pages)

Pictorial
EROS
Summer 1962

“Nineteenth Century tobacco advertising linked sex and tobacco perhaps more beautifully (and naively) than any advertising before or since. It is from that period that we present the[se] cigar box labels…”

UNITED CIGAR STORES Premium Catalog (9 pages)

Excerpt of 50-page catalog
1903

“CIGARS: ‘Knowing the wholesomeness of this product, and upon the highly favorable report of our Hygienic Experts and Medical staff, we cordially extend to the Lucke Cigars and Rolls our editorial and official endorsement, and advise the use of these goods by all who wish a healthful smoke.’ (Signed) United States Health Reports by A.N. TALLEY, M.D., Washington, D.C., January 2, 1900”

Magazine advertisement by cigar manufacturer J.H. Lucke & Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, with a quote from of a report by A.N. Talley, M.D. “ON THE HYGIENIC VALUE OF CIGARS”
1900

“NICOTINE MADE HARMLESS: ‘The Tobacco from which Health Cigars are made is first treated with a solution discovered by Dr. Hugo Gerold, the greatest authority on nicotine poisoning. By this process the Nicotine is rendered harmless but not removed. Recommended by Physicians everywhere and Endorsed by Medical Associations. 52 Million Health Cigars smoked in Europe last year and consumed by all classes, from the peasant to the Czar of Russia, who smokes under the command of the Imperial physician.”

Advertisement by The Health Tobacco Company, New York, New York
Scribner’s Magazine
Circa 1900

“Are your nerves like this? The Girard Cigar never gets on your nerves.”
Are you easily irritated? Easily annoyed? Do children get on your nerves? Do you fly off the handle and then feel ashamed of yourself?
When nerves are right–when health is right–you shouldn’t be this way. Ask any doctor…
The Girard is famous for the fact that it never gets on your nerves. Doctors recommend it, and smoke it, too…”

Advertisement by Antonio Roig & Langsdorf, Philadelphia
The Literary Digest
November 23, 1918

“Does your wife worry about your smoking? Switch to Girards!”

Magazine advertisement by Antonio Roig & Langsdorf, Philadelphia
1914

“If you were a surgeon—
the nature of your work would require you to keep your nerves true and steady. Therein a surgeon has an advantage over most men. He is compelled to be careful of his nerves…

“As for Girard at the next cigar counter. Sold in every state in the Union. Doctors recommend it and smoke it too.”

Advertisement by Antonio Roig & Langsdorf, Philadelphia
The Saturday Evening Post
September 6, 1919

“The doctor says, ‘Yes — give them all Girards!'”

Advertisement by Antonio Roig & Langsdorf, Philadelphia
The Saturday Evening Post
Circa 1917

“Your doctor will approve this cigar
And smoke it, too, if he is a smoker. For it means real satisfaction, and no nervous ‘come-back.’

Advertisement by Antonio Roig & Langsdorf, Philadelphia
The Saturday Evening Post
April 27, 1912

“Men everywhere are turning to milder cigars — like the Girard”

Advertisement by Antonio Roig & Langsdorf, Philadelphia
The Literary Digest
November 6, 1915

“NOW she can’t say you are smoking too much.

Advertisement by Antonio Roig & Langsdorf, Philadelphia, for Girard cigars
Circa 1917

“A Health Hint for Smokers

Advertisement by Antonio Roig & Langsdorf, Philadelphia
LIFE Magazine
Circa 1912

“Doctors recommend Girards and smoke ’em too.”

Advertisement by Antonio Roig & Langsdorf, Philadelphia
The Saturday Evening Post
August 16, 1919

“All that any normal smoker needs to do is to stick close to Girards and he will never have to worry about any ill effects of tobacco.”

“‘Smoke my kind,’ said the doctor

Advertisement by Antonio Roig & Langsdorf, Philadelphia
The Saturday Evening Post
June 9, 1917

“‘They’re Girards — full of keen flavor, full of solid comfort for the smoker’s soul, but wit never a bit of malice for his health…’
“Think it over. isn’t the doctor right? What is the sense of smoking cigars that endanger your well-being, when Girards will bring you as much pleasure and no danger.
“Puff for puff you can’t beat the Girard for undiluted joy. And at the same time it never interferes with your health or your efficiency. That’s why so many doctors smoke it. That’s why they recommend it.”

“A health hint for smokers — try it

Advertisement by Antonio Roig & Langsdorf, Philadelphia
The Saturday Evening Post
June 8, 1918

“Thousands of…men wouldn’t think of smoking anything except the Girard today, because they know it never affects nerves, heart or digestion..”

“The doctor announces
that he has advised his friend Santa Claus to give Girard Cigars to all smokers this Christmas”

Advertisement by Antonio Roig & Langsdorf, Philadelphia
The Saturday Evening Post
December 8, 1917

“The doctor himself smokes the Girard the year ’round and recommends it to his patients in place of heavy cigars. He knows that the average smoker feels better physically and enjoys his smoking more when he smokes Girards exclusively.

“The Girard is a mild full-flavored cigar that never interferes with health or efficiency…”

“20 WORDS
OF REASON
For Certified Cremo’s Superior Quality
One man’s spit is another man’s poison. Certified Cremo machine-made, finished under glass, offers quality and protection against spit.
Certified Cremo
…THE GOOD 5c CIGAR
THAT AMERICA NEEDED

Advertisement by the American Cigar Company
UNITED STATES TOBACCO JOURNAL
November 21, 1931

“In New York SPIT is a horrid word,
but it is worse on the end of your cigar

…the war against Spitting is a crusade of decency…join it. Smoke CERTIFIED CREMO.”

Advertisement by the American Cigar Company
The Public Ledger  (Philadelphia daily newspaper)
October 1930
(Donated by Lucy Caswell, founder and former curator,  Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, Ohio State University, May 10, 2004)

“That ‘spit’ copy may be eliminated from future Cremo cigar advertising is a possibility indicated by the new Cremo copy appearing this week in the UNITED STATES TOBACCO JOURNAL. This advertisement unique among Cremo ads in more than a  year, makes no mention of ‘the horrid word,’ and the American Cigar Co. will not say…whether this means that the term has been withdrawn from future copy…”

–“No ‘spit’ Reference In New Cremo Copy”
UNITED STATES TOBACCO JOURNAL
June 13, 1931 (Source: Tony Hyman, founder National Cigar History Museum)

The online National Cigar History Museum (https://cigarhistory.info/Site/NCM_HOME.html), created in 2008 by Tony Hyman, an authority on the history of cigar manufacture and the foremost collector of cigar memorabilia, is drawn from his collection of over 30,000 items. The museum features a fascinating exhibition, “Selling Cigars with Health Claims” (https://cigarhistory.info/Cigar-box_THEMES/Health.html#76), which includes the images above: a cigar box for a brand called Doctor’s Prescription, an advertisement for Red Cross cigars, a cigar box label featuring a doctor recommending a cigar every hour, and advertisements for Cremo cigars with endorsements by “56 public health officials.”

“ENDORSEMENT OF CREMO ANTISPIT ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN BY PUBLIC HEALTH WORKERS”

Letter by P. Flint Clough, MD
Journal of the American Medic al Association
Volume 96, number 12, page 967
March 21, 1931

A public apology by a physician for having been misled into endorsing a brand of cigars because of the manufacturer’s claim that they were sealed at the end by a machine and not hand-rolled by workers who sealed the tip with their saliva. In 1929 the American Cigar Company launched this controversial anti-spit advertising campaign in over 100 newspapers. Within two years Cremo became the top-selling five-cent cigar and drove thousands of small hand-roll cigar makers out of business. Still, the growing popularity of cigarettes led to a dramatic drop in cigar consumption in the 1930s.

_______________________________________

“The American Cigar Company has been carrying on an advertising campaign for its product, the ‘Cremo Cigar,’ in which the public is led to believe that most cigars are hand-made and have the tips finished off with the salvia of the individual workman. The campaign features a testimonial…stat[ing] that Cremo Cigars are not ‘spit-topped.’

“Physicians may admit that, theoretically, it is possible for disease to be transmitted by means of cigars. But when one considers the millions of cigars that are consumed annually and that it is extremely difficult to to find in medical literature any real evidence of the transmission of pathologic bacteria  by means of cigars, the campaign of the Cremo concern stands condemned.

“But physicians have a further interest in this problem – at least, many physicians do – not as physicians, but as men who enjoy a good cigar or cigaret. Advertising of this sort is pernicious from the social standpoint. If kept up persistently enough, it is likely to result in an attempt by the anti-tobacco fanatics to get on the statute books legislation prohibiting the sale and manufacture of tobacco products. The result would probably be another ‘holy war’ that will make the scientific discussion of the tobacco problem as difficult as the scientific discussion of the alcohol problem is today.”

–“Bureau of Investigation:
TOBACCO ADVERTISING GONE MAD”
JAMA, volume 94, number 11, page 810
March 15, 1930

“Too Many Cigars Last Night?”

Advertisement by Lehn & Fine, Inc, New York, for Pebeco Tooth Paste
The Saturday Evening Post
May 1920

“EL BUBBLE”

Box of bubble gum cigars
Philadelphia Chewing Gum Corporation
Circa 1940s

“wear a cigar, smoke a cigar. ..look smart, smoke smart”

Advertisement by the Cigar Institute of America, Inc.
Sports Illustrated
August 28, 1961

“PLAY TIME!”

Magazine advertisement by Consolidated Cigar Corporation for Dutch Masters cigars
Circa 1960

“Love and Dutch Masters to Dad!”

Magazine advertisement by Consolidated Cigar Corporation
Circa 1960

“AMERICA’S CIGAR”

Magazine advertisement by Consolidated Cigar Corporation for Dutch Masters cigars
1984

“Terri Clark: SHE’S SMOKIN'”

Cover, Country Music Today
October-November 2000

“MACANUDO An American Passion.”

Advertisement by the General Cigar Company
Cigar Aficionado
September 2008

“Should a gentleman offer a Tiparillo to a dental hygienist?”

Advertisement by the General Cigar Company
Playboy Magazine
Circa 1970

“Smokin’, Stylish, Seriously Punch.”

Advertisement by Villazon & Company for Punch cigars
Black Enterprise Magazine
December 2001

“‘LIGHT ME, POP!’ SAYS FOUR-YEAR OLD” (2 pages)

ACME (NEWS) PHOTO
May 28, 1940

“DALLAS, TEXAS…Nothing like a big black stogie after a mealtime bottle, claims Gerald Edward Summers, 4, of Dallas. The boy has been smoking since he was 2, is large for his age and has never been sick for all his smoking. Often he varies the cigar with a cigaret or pipe. Physicians have told his father that smoking in moderation will not harm the lad.”

“Militant anti-smoking group blamed after…
TRICK CIGAR BLOWS
MAN’S HEAD OFF!
‘He took two puffs, and then — BOOM!’ says restaurant manager” (3 pages)

Article by Henry Weber
WEEKLY WORLD NEWS
January 19, 1988

“Fireworks, fillers for Trick Cigars. Just the thing for April Fool Day”
Advertisement by J.C. Newman, New York
THE TOBACCO LEAF
March 17, 1910

“Authorities said the blast actually vaporized [George] Pressoa’s head.
“‘There was nothing left from the neck up,’ said Sgt. [Claudio] Mendes.
“…Suspected in the man’s death is the small but militant anti-smoking group Stop Smokers Now!.
“…Police say attacks on individuals like Pressoa are just a logical step in the group’s war against smoking in public.
“‘SSN is an underground group and extremely elusive,’ said Sgt. Mendes. ‘But I promise you we will stop them before another innocent smoker is killed.’
“‘George loved his cigars and railed against anyone who  tried to stop him from smoking. I wonder what he’s saying now,’ Mrs. Pressoa said.”

IT WAS INDEED…