Editor’s Note: This is a reprint of a story that was originally printed in the Hannibal Courier-Post in a special edition to celebrate the newspaper’s 100th anniversary in 1938.
Hannibal was a tobacco center long before the civil war, in fact plug, twist and smoking tobacco, for many years, was one of the town’s chief items of export and cigars were manufactured for home consumption.
Hannibal did not gain fame along this line because it was situated in the heart of a tobacco country, but on account of its advantageous location and its shipping facilities. It was also the home of progressive citizens who were not afraid to embark in the tobacco industry.
In 1859 there were fourteen tobacco factories in operation in Hannibal, employing a total of Over 1,000 persons, and all of these factories seemed to be prospering. The civil war, however, struck the tobacco industry a telling blow from which the town never fully recovered, for, almost over night, Hannibal ceased to be a tobacco center for many of the plants moved and, at the close of the great struggle between the states, the owners of the plants failed to relocate them here but moved them eastward, and what promised to become a leading industry in this part of the Mississippi valley became only a memory.
“The land in the vicinity of Hannibal is not productive tobacco land; it is too strong to raise good cigar tobacco.” said a citizen who was at one time engaged in the manufacture of cigars on an extensive scale. “The farmers found this out when the town was young – and they spent their time raising more productive crops. It is true that some farmers raise a little tobacco, but it is mostly for home consumption.”
Big Tobacco Factories
Notwithstanding the fact that no really good cigar tobacco was raised in this county, or in this part of the state, in the early days tobacco factories located here turned out good chewing tobacco and packaged or sacked a popular tobacco for pipe smokers. There were three other big factories between Hannibal and St Louis. The Tinsley plant and one other at Louisiana and a plant at Clarksville turned out plug tobacco and smoking tobacco which was in great demand. These plants flourished long after the war but, about 30 years ago. were “sold down the river,” and were moved to St. Louis.
One of Hannibal’s oldest and best known tobacco factories was the David Garth plant. It was located on what was then known as Palmyra avenue, but which is now Mark Twain avenue, on the corner of Fourth street, in the two story brick building now occupied by the Gray Grocery company. The factory then occupied both floors of the structure. A large number of people were employed. The factory shipped great quantities of plug and pipe tobacco to other towns by steamer.
The William Mann tobacco factory occupied the three story brick building on the corner of Third and Hill streets, the building now occupied by Scudders-Gale Grocery company. The Mann factory did a big wholesale business. A large number of persons were employed.
The corner of Fourth and Church streets was one of the real lively spots of Hannibal during the days when the village was growing into a town. An old two story rock building housed a thriving tobacco factory. The tobacco factory occupied the structure for sometime. Later the place was used as an ice house and many tons of frozen coldness stored in the depths of the big house, helped to keep Hannibal people from suffering from the heat during the summer months. The ice house was in operation for a few years and then the place was transformed into a skating rink. Roller skating was popular and the rink was one of three operating in Hannibal. Later the second floor was torn down and a part of the old building was razed. The remainder of the structure was remodeled and became W. T. League’s green house which, of course, many of the citizens of Hannibal and vicinity remember. A few years ago Marvin Whitney bought the place, tore down the old green house and built his present electric battery station on the lot.
Many smaller tobacco factories thrived for a time in Hannibal.
These factories were located, on or near the river front or in that part of the city now known as North Main street and vicinity,
Cigar Factories Appear
After the civil war Hannibal again became a tobacco center but by this time cigars had become more popular and the factories specialized in their manufacture, at first, for home consumption, but gradually the territory widened. Railroads were being built to various parts of the country and the railroads were competing with the boats as freight carriers.
Tobacco was shipped into this city by train, made into cigars here and shipped out by rail to merchants at other points. Hannibal has, ever since cigars were manufactured here, been noted for the excellence of its cigars.
Well Known Cigar Makers
“Uncle” Joe Tisdale was one of Hannibal’s oldest and best known cigar makers. He lived at Seventh and Hill streets, and for many years operated a cigar factory on North Main street.
H. H. Landcraft made cigars in Hannibal for many years after the civil war. His factory was located in the 300 block on Broadway next door to the present store of E. L. Seibel. He made a famous five cent cigar known as “Happy Lank.” (The E.L. Seibel plumbing store was located at 315 Broadway)
E. M. Holmes manufactured cigars here, his factory being located on the east side of Main street between Bird and Center streets. Later Holmes moved his factory to South Main street, next door to the paint and paper establishment of Robinson Brothers. A short time after moving into his new quarters Harry F. Dakin bought an interest in the business and the Hohnes-Dakin cigar company became a candidate for public favor, The partnership was formed in 1882 and the company was incorporated in 1883
The Holmes-Dakin cigar company continued in business on South Main street, next door to Robinson Brothers, until the firm was burned out in the great fire.
The Great Fire
Many of the older citizens of Hannibal remember the big fire which, for a time, threatened to destroy the entire downtown business section of the city. The fire broke out in the store of Williams & Company at 6 o’clock Saturday night, November 25, 1893, and quickly spread to the surrounding property. Fanned by the brisk wind it jumped across South Main street and destroyed nearly all of the business houses on both sides of South Main street from Broadway to Church street. The Hannibal fire department, reenforced by the Quincy fire department, fought hard to prevent the spread of the conflagration. The Holmes-Dakin cigar factory was in the path of the fire and eight minutes after the plate glass windows cracked by the intense heat, broke, the first and second floors of the building fell into the basement.
Soon after the big fire, the Holmes-Dakin company purchased the two story building, corner of Church and South Main street, the building now occupied by W. E. Griswold’s furniture store, the cigar company occupied the entire structure. This was one of the few buildings left standing after the big conflagration.
In the meantime several persons had bought stock in the Holmes-Dakin company. Later Mr. Holmes disposed of his interest in the concern and moved to California. The business of the Hohnes-Dakin company steadily increased and its trade territory widened until it was selling cigars in five states, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. Their best known brands of cigars were the “H. J. B.,” “Tucks” and “Quality.”
Mr. Holmes spent several years in California and, upon his return to Hannibal again engaged in the manufacture of cigars. His factory was located on Broadway and Seventh street.
A number of other cigar factories were flourishing in Hannibal about this time. Bernard C. Lubbering was located at 425 Broadway. Dan Manning & Son had a factory on Broadway. Romberg & Neth were conducting a factory on Broadway and Kettering Brothers had a factory at 110 South Main street. Later the Ketterings combined with th Rombergs, the firm being known as Kettering & Romberg. For many years Dreyer Brothers operated a factory here, making the “Magnolia” and “Little Pat” cigars. They occupied quarters on the ground where the city hall building stands today. Charles Dreyer drew out of the firm and John Dreyer, who afterwards was mayor of Hannibal, continued to conduct the business.
Hannibal Cigar Factories
Many of the older citizens of Hannibal probably remember that R. and A. Eichenberger established their factory here, 48 years ago. R. Eichenberger died several years ago, and the firm name was changed to A. & J. Eichenberger. For more than a quarter of a century the Eichenberger cigar store and factory have been located in the building at 308 Broadway.
“Cigar factories used to be plentiful in this part of Missouri,” said A. Eichenberger, a few days ago, “but at the present time,” he continued, “you will find very few of these factories, if any, between this city and St. Joseph. I can remember when we had fifty or more members of the cigar makers union living in Hannibal, and almost fifty cigar makers,living in Louisiana, Shelbina and other nearby towns were affiliated with us. Those were the days when cigar making was a flourishing industry. Cigar makers are thinning out. There is more smoking today than ever before but the younger element prefers the cigarette. They like the cigarette because they can inhale the smoke. Cigarettes are crowding the cigars into the back round and as the demand for cigars began to grow less, many of the old time cigar makers begin to look around for other vocations and entered new fields of labor. The cigar manufacturing business, which began to decline before the world war, really received a telling body blow during the great struggle. It can truly be said that the cigar industry is not nearly as thriving as it was years ago and there does not seem to be a great chance for a revival of the cigar trade.”
Cigar smokers of Hannibal and vicinity know of the Mahoney Brothers, Jerry and John B., who started in the cigar business in this city July 1, 1902 and their factory was located on Broadway, almost directly across the street from their present quarters at 517 Broadway, the building they have occupied for 15 years. At one time 13 cigarmakers were employed by the firm, together with a number of stemmers and other employees. At that time they turned out thousands of cigars annually and carried a stock of from 50,000 to 8O,000 cigars. They shipped some of the cigars to other cities and towns in the surrounding territory but disposed of the great bulk of the output of the factory locally. “The cigar industry began to decline before the world war,” said Jerry Mahoney, in talking of the tobacco industry several days ago. “The world war really played havoc with the cigar industry and the cigarette became very popular with the younger generation of smokers. The older men are the cigar smokers but the older men are passing on and the cigar continues to lose ground.”
Has Factory In Home
Charles Ledford, a veteran cigar maker, has been in business in Hannibal for many years. His cigar, “Safety First,” is well known in Hannibal and vicinity. He has his factory in his home 708 Center street.
Part In Labor Movement
“It is not generally known but the cigar makers played a big part in the organized labor movement, and the constitution of the cigar makers union has been taken as a model for other organizations,” said F. C. Harrow, one of a Hannibal’s veteran cigar makers having his establishment on Market street for a long time, and who, for many years, was secretary of the local cigar makers union. “Samuel Gornpers, the great labor leader,” continued Mr. Harrow, held card No. 1 in the International Cigar Makers’ Union. He organized the first union, and the first union card was issued to him. For many years the cigar makers kept six organizers in the field, and it was their duty to interest other workers in organization and to explain the benefits to be gained.”
“There are only a few of us left”, said Harrow, in discussing the tobacco situation with a Courier-Post reporter a few days ago. “You can count us on the fingers of one hand,” he continued, ‘there are the Eichenbergers, the Mahoneys, Charley Ledford, the veteran cigar maker who has his factory in his home, and myself and yet, at one time, this was from 1903 to 1905, there were 53 members of the cigar makers union here, and about as many more who were not members of our organization. These men, with the stemmer, packers. foremen and salesmen, made quite a force engaged in the manufacture and distribution of cigars. Strange as it may seem Hannibal is still one of the bright spots in Missouri in the manufacture of cigars. We have about as many cigar makers here as there are in Kansas City. At one time there was a cigar factory in almost every town. I believe there is yet one factory between Hannibal and Kansas City. It is located in Mexico. The cigar making industry began to fall off in 1890 but the decline throughout the country, up to 1900 was so gradual that we hardly noticed it.”
Tobacco In Good Cigar
“Where does the tobacco come from used in good cigars today?” asked the reporter of an old cigar maker. “You might be surprised to know,” was the reply. “Several years ago a great deal of the tobacco used as fillers and binders in cigars made in Hannibal came from Wisconsin. We are not getting so much tobacco from there now but a great deal of tobacco used in the present day cigar, made in this part of the Mississippi valley, comes from eastern, northeastern and southern states. A great quantity of tobacco used as fillers and binders comes from Massachusetts. Ohio grows tobacco, popular in this part of the state, as fillers. We get a good deal of our broad leaf from Pennsylvania whiLe some wrappers are grown in Georgia. The Pennsylvania broad leaf is popular. A great deal of the tobacco received from Georgia is used for wrappers. This is a very thin wrapper. Some of the really high grade tobacco, which goes into real quality cigars. comes from Java and the Island of Sumatra.”
“If you will get out your geography and look at the map of the world, you will see that it is a long, long ocean and rail trip from Java, which is owned by the Dutch, and the island of Sumatra to this city, but a good deal of tobacco shipped from both of these points to Hannibal have been made into cigars and shipped to cities and towns in the middle west, and enjoyed by smokers in those places. Of course we receive wrappers and tobacco from Cuba. Many Havannas are manufactured here and Hannibal made cigars have always compared favorably with any on the market.”
“In 1904,” said an old tobacco merchant, “there was 13 cigar factories in Hannibal, employing a total of 70 men and Hannibal made cigars were sold not only in the surrounding territory but in several states. Today six or seven cigar makers here make enough cigars to supply the demand.”
Father Raised Tobacco
“Tobacco never was one of the principal crops in this section of the state, at least not as far as I can remember,” said Uncle Joshua Briggs. 96, of Center, in talking about Missouri crops sometime ago. “It is rather a hard crop to raise and it must be given a great deal of attention,” Uncle Josh continued. “Some farmers did raise tobacco when I was a boy, and some farmers, I believe, raise a little today, but it is mostly for home consumption. Somehow the land just does not seem to be adapted for tobacco growing. My father was a good farmer and I can remember when he started in to grow tobacco. He worked hard, and raised a good crop. Father was quite proud of his efforts and he made him a big cigar, and he smoked it. I remember he was sick for two days and I also remember that he raised no more tobacco.”
“I can remember when I was a young man, Jake Newlon had a big tobacco barn near Hydesburg and one night the barn caught on fire and a lot of us went out from New London to see if we could aid in extinguishing the fire. We could not. It was a hot fire. The barn was completely destroyed and we who had volunteered our services, could not get the tobacco smell out of our clothing for more than a week.”
“Tobacco is all right, many people like to smoke and many like to chew but tobacco is not a good crop to raise in this part of the country because the land does not seem to be good tobacco land.”