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