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THAT REMINDS ME: New dads weren’t only ones handing out cigars

Marilyn Hagerty

There is a technique to giving away a cigar. And I learned about it while scrolling through the files of the Herald from 75 years ago.

In the early 1880s, cigars were all the rage. As a matter of fact, many were manufactured in Grand Forks.

The Herald in 1939 showed pictures of three prominent citizens giving away a cigar.

  •  Marshall H. Greenleaf, division freight agent for Great Northern Railroad, used the debonair way of sticking the cigar in the coat pocket of the recipient.
  •  President John C. West of UND exemplified a formal or sedate method of presenting a cigar with the hand at the belt line.
  •  Henry Holt was shown demonstrating the hail and hearty manner of putting the cigar between the lips of the receiver.

The Herald files reveal there were cigar makers here before the turn of the century. In the early 1880s, four of them independently started in the business. They were George Dubell, Dave Sulzbach, Dan Fordney and Nelson Buck.

Their business was good, and Sulzbach had as many as 10 men working for him at one time. Soon there were 30 separate cigar-making shops in Grand Forks. Buck produced and distributed as many as 100,000 cigars in a single year.

There were similar industries in other cities in the Red River Valley. But the cigar-making business began to dwindle in the late 1890s. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, production was further curtailed by the difficulty in getting good tobacco for cigars.

Buck took his cigar-making business back to Manvel, N.D. There he combined farming and cigar-making for the Grand Forks market for a number of years.

But by then, cigar making no longer was an industry in Grand Forks. Mass-produced cigars with national distribution were taking over the market.

The custom of giving away cigars, though long forgotten, was in vogue at the turn of the century. In those days, it was perfectly proper to repay any minor obligation with a good cigar.

A Herald commentary in 1939 years ago said, “Now when the service is by someone to whom a cash tip cannot be offered, it is difficult to express gratitude.

“Then it was perfectly proper to offer a cigar to a bank president or a cabdriver. That was the age of hand-rolled cigars; and while a nickel smoke might do for a cab driver, there were ten-centers, two-for-a-quarters, fifteen-cents straight and quarter cigars to suit the various social stations.

“Politicians used the custom to extreme in soliciting votes; but in other walks of life, it did provide an expression of gratitude for services from extension of a promissory note to the lend of a dollar.”