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Who Invented the Cigar: Unraveling the Origins and History

Who Invented the Cigar

Who Invented the Cigar: Unraveling the Origins and History

The history of cigars can be traced back to ancient Central America, where the Mayans crafted the first ever cigars as early as the 10th century. They would wrap tobacco leaves in either palm or plantain leaves and smoke them. Over time, the practice of smoking cigars made its way to the Caribbean, where it was observed by Christopher Columbus and his men during their voyages in the late 15th century.

Upon Columbus’ arrival in the Caribbean in 1492, he encountered the Taino natives of Cuba, who were smoking rudimentary cigars made from dried tobacco leaves and wrapped in palm or plantain leaves. Columbus and his crew introduced tobacco to Europe, where it was initially met with disdain. However, over time, the Spanish and other Europeans began to embrace smoking tobacco leaves and thus, the cigar as we know it today was born.

Key Takeaways

  • The Mayans are credited with creating the first cigars in ancient Central America.
  • Christopher Columbus and his crew introduced tobacco and the practice of smoking it to Europe.
  • The cigar evolved over time as Europeans began to embrace tobacco smoking.

Origins of Tobacco Use

Indigenous Traditions

Tobacco use has its roots in the indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica and South America. These native people discovered tobacco and initially used it for medicinal, religious, and social purposes. The Mayan word for smoking rolled tobacco leaves was “sikar”, which later transformed into the Spanish word “cigarro” and the English word “cigar”. One common practice among indigenous communities involved smoking a long, thick bundle of twisted tobacco leaves wrapped in a dried palm leaf or corn husk.

European Adoption

The international recognition of cigar smoking began in the 1500s, following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the modern-day islands of Cuba, Hispaniola (today hosting the countries of Haiti and The Dominican Republic). Upon encountering tobacco, Columbus and the explorers who followed him introduced it to Europe and the rest of the world. The art of cigar-making was extensively developed in Cuba, where the process from selecting the tobacco leaves to rolling and aging became carefully crafted to produce high-quality cigars. As a result, cigar smoking spread across various continents, becoming an integral part of various cultures worldwide.

Evolution of the Cigar

Early Forms

The cigar has its origins in ancient Mayan culture, where tobacco was used for religious ceremonies and wrapped in palm or plantain leaves to create a rudimentary cigar-like product. A 10th-century Mayan pot depicts a man smoking one of these early forms, providing visual evidence of its existence. Tobacco smoking later spread to other indigenous people in Central America and the Caribbean.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus and his crew discovered the Taino natives in Cuba smoking cigars made of dried tobacco leaves wrapped in palm or plantain leaves. They brought tobacco back to Europe, and cigar smoking quickly became popular among the elite as a status symbol of wealth and sophistication.

Development of the Modern Cigar

By the 16th century, cigar smoking had become a common practice in Europe. The term “cigar” originated from the Mayan word “sikar,” which means “to smoke rolled tobacco leaves.” Over time, the Spanish transformed it into “cigarro,” and the English further shortened it to “cigar.”

A few defining events in the evolution of the modern cigar include:

  • 1730: The English abbreviation “cigar” came into general use.
  • Late 1700s/Early 1800s: The first cigar factories emerged in Spain, eventually spreading to other European countries and the United States.
  • 19th century: Cigars began to be differentiated by size, shape, and blend of tobacco.
  • Cuban Revolution (1959): This political event significantly impacted the cigar industry, as many Cuban cigar manufacturers fled the country and established new production sites in other countries, leading to increased competition in the market.

Throughout centuries of development, many aspects of cigar making have stayed consistent, such as the importance of properly sourced and aged tobacco, the meticulous process of rolling cigar leaves, and the appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into producing a quality cigar.

In conclusion, the invention of the cigar is attributed to ancient Mayan culture, and its evolution has been influenced by various historical events and social factors. It now stands as a symbol of luxury and indulgence for many tobacco enthusiasts around the world.

Inventor Controversy

The true origin of the cigar is a topic of historical debate. Early evidence of cigar-like tobacco use can be traced back to the Mayan civilization, but the widespread adoption of cigar smoking can be attributed to Christopher Columbus’ introduction of tobacco to Europe.

Attribution Challenges

While the specific inventor of the cigar is difficult to pin down, there are some key historical figures and moments that contributed to its development. One early example of a rudimentary cigar comes from a Mayan ceramic pot from Guatemala dating back to the 10th century. The pot depicts people smoking tobacco leaves tied together with a string [^(1^)]. Another indication of early cigar use can be found in the pre-Contact Caribbean islands, where tobacco smoking was a common practice among natives [^(2^)].

When Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492, he observed natives smoking similar rudimentary cigars. Columbus later introduced tobacco to Europe, where it initially met with disdain but later gained popularity [^(3^)]. The Spanish and other Europeans soon began to enjoy smoking tobacco leaves, which led to the modern cigar’s development.

Despite these historical mentions, pinpointing the inventor of the cigar remains challenging due to:

  • The lack of written documentation about early tobacco use and cigar-like smoking.
  • The diverse origins and practices of different indigenous groups who used tobacco.
  • The adaptation and transformation of tobacco smoking as it spread across Europe and the rest of the world.

In summary, although we may never know the specific individual responsible for inventing the cigar, its origins can be traced back to the Mayan civilization, and its popularization can be attributed to Europeans like Columbus who brought tobacco to the Old World.


  1. “A Brief History Of the Cigar – TIME”
  2. “Cigar – Wikipedia”
  3. “The History of Cigars: When Were Cigars Invented?”

Cigar Manufacturing Pioneers

The history of cigar manufacturing can be traced back to the late 15th century when Columbus and his sailors discovered the natives of the Americas smoking cylindrical bundles of twisted tobacco leaves wrapped in dried palm or corn husks. The Taino natives in particular, were reported to have been enjoying cigars made of dried tobacco leaves wrapped in palm or plantain leaves.

Contributions to Cigar Making

Over the years, various regions and individuals have made significant contributions to cigar making, refining the process and setting the foundation for the industry as we know it today.

  • Cuba: Known for producing some of the finest cigars in the world, Cuba was the epicenter of cigar production during the colonial times. The fertile soil and favorable climate of the Vuelta Abajo region, provided the perfect conditions for growing high-quality tobacco.
  • Ernesto Perez-Carrillo: A notable figure in the cigar industry, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo’s La Gloria Cubana brand gained widespread recognition in the early 1990s. His sales rocketed from 700,000 cigars in 1992 to 3.3 million in 1996, showcasing the increasing popularity of cigars during this time.
  • Development of Cigar Components: Cigars have evolved since their early days and now consist of three distinct components: the filler, the binder leaf, and a wrapper leaf. This structure allows for a more controlled and consistent smoking experience, with the wrapper leaf playing a key role in appearance and flavor.

The cigar industry has a rich history filled with pioneers who have innovated and refined the craft over the centuries. As a result, cigars continue to be enjoyed by millions of people worldwide, honoring the contributions of those who have shaped the industry into what it is today.

Impact on Culture and Society

Cigars have had a significant impact on culture and society throughout history. They have become a symbol of celebration, luxury, and social status in various regions and cultural fabrics. While the precise origins of the cigar remain unclear, its importance in cultural and social events is undeniable.

Social Significance

Cigars are intertwined with the idea of social gatherings. In historical contexts, they have been enjoyed during political meetings, business deals, and leisurely activities. Famous historical figures such as Winston Churchill and Sigmund Freud were known for their love of cigars, which further cemented their role in high society. Even today, the act of smoking a cigar at a special event or gathering is considered a mark of sophistication and elegance.

Cultural Impact

The influence of cigars can be traced back to ancient civilizations and their trading relationships with the New World, particularly in the Caribbean and Central America. Over time, different regions have developed their own unique cigar-making traditions and techniques, resulting in various styles, flavors, and quality levels. Some notable examples include:

  • Cuban cigars – Known for their premium quality and highly coveted by cigar enthusiasts worldwide.
  • Dominican cigars – Renowned for their exceptional craftsmanship and smooth flavors.
  • Nicaraguan cigars – Recognized for their bold taste and rich tobacco blends.

Economic Contribution

Cigars have also played a significant role in the economies of producing countries, such as Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua. The production and export of cigars have contributed greatly to their GDP and the livelihood of local farmers and manufacturers. Acccording to Cigar Aficionado, in 1990, the U.S. premium cigar industry had a market value of $186 million, which showcases its economic impact.

In summary, the impact of cigars on culture and society is deeply rooted in history and evolves with the changing times and cultural dynamics. Despite the emergence of alternative smoking methods, cigars continue to be a significant cultural symbol and maintain their importance in social events and celebrations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is considered the father of modern cigar making?

The father of modern cigar-making isn’t one individual, but rather it can be attributed to the generations of skilled craftsmen in Cuba. These artisans developed the techniques that are used today to construct high-quality cigars with an appealing appearance and flavor.

What is the origin of cigars in the United States?

Cigars made their way into the United States in the late 18th century, carried by sailors and merchants traveling between the US and the Caribbean. They gained popularity in the 19th century, particularly after the Civil War, and numerous cigar factories were established in cities along the East Coast.

When did cigars first appear in human history?

Cigars have a long history that traces back to the Mayan civilization. Mayans were known to smoke tobacco by rolling leaves into crude cigars. In the 1500s, after Columbus’ arrival in the New World, tobacco and the practice of smoking cigars began to spread throughout Europe, where they became a symbol of wealth and luxury.

Which country is credited with the development of the cigar?

Although the origins of cigars can be traced back to the Mayans, it was in Cuba where the art of creating cigars, as we know them today, truly took shape. Cuba is widely recognized for its skilled craftsmen who cultivated and refined the techniques for growing high-quality tobacco and making cigars.

How did cigar smoking become popularized?

Cigar smoking gained international recognition in the 1500s after Columbus and his crew returned to Europe with tobacco seeds and dried leaves. As cigars began to be produced in Europe, they quickly became a status symbol of the upper class, which further increased their popularity and prominence in society.

Was the cigar or cigarette invented first?

Cigars predate cigarettes in human history, with their origins reaching back to the Mayan civilization that rolled tobacco leaves as rudimentary cigars. Cigarettes, on the other hand, were developed in the 19th century as a more accessible and portable alternative to cigars.

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