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

“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

“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 & Langdorf, Philadelphia
The Literary Digest
November 23, 1918

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

Magazine advertisement by Antonio Roig & Langdorf, Philadelphia
1914

“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

“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

“AMERICA’S CIGAR”

Magazine advertisement by Consolidated Cigar Corporation for Dutch Masters cigars
1984