This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Respecting this popular article, and its manufacture of cigars, it may be expected, in our rambling notes, that we should say a few words. It is well known, that the tobacco plant is the product of but a small portion of the island - the southwest A person confining himself to short rides from Havana, and to the vicinity of the railroads, would see about as much of the weed growing as he would in Pennsylvania or Connecticut, the soil in the other parts not being more propitious to the flavor than that of our own country. Good tobacco is thus a dear article, and becoming annually more so aa the cultivation recedes from the great mart by the wearing oat of the land, which is the ease yearly. Formerly, the tobacco lands were about eighteen miles from the city; they are now at least one hundred and fifty miles distant Large dealers.in cigars make their own bargains for the crops of the extensive cultivators whole tobacco is known to them, and thus acquire a kind of monopoly of the best; smaller operators endeavor to have as good an article, by assisting the grower to new lands, and taking an interest in them.
The consumer at a few thousand cigars, watches his opportunity, and when sure'of a good seroon or two, purchases, and conveys it to his own house, where it is manufactured under his own eye, from a known article, and therefore to his taste. The cigar maker comes to him for a week, more or less, and charges by the thousand.
In addition to these plans, varied with the various degrees of enterprise and capital embarked, there may be seen, all over Havana, blacks and whites most industriously employed in rolling cigars; and, ten chances to one, if you stop at a posada in your rides in the neighborhood, however humble, there will be found, under a shed, or in some corner, a parcel of dark looking fellows similarly engaged; and yet, with all this industry, it is still a wonder whence proceed all the millions of smokable cigars which perfume the civilized world. Their source is to be sought for in out of the way places, in garrets, and private domains, which are out of sight, and which are delivering more or less, daily, to the great dealers who supply the capital and the raw material. Cigaritas are made by women and men who can follow at the same time another employment, such as keeping watch at the door of a hotel, etc.
Numerous small manufacturers sell their article at a lew figure to the great dealers like Partigas, or the Cabanas' houses, who subject them to a rigid picking; the best looking on the outside, and which may have cost in the unpicked state, ten dollars per thousand, are number one, and will be charged to the unthinking American customer who looks only to the external appearance, at fifty dollars, the seconds at twenty or thirty, and the callings will find a market at about the original price; so that one man smokes, at six or seven cents, the same tobacco exactly that better informed and more economical people .get for one cent. The reputation of the (nominal) maker has much to do with the price, and this reputation, as in a thousand instances in all countries, is kept up by outside appearances. When a particular brand, size, and shape, have become popular in any country strong efforts are made to keep up this appearance, and a simulated article has to be resorted to the moment the demand exceeds the supply, which is always limited Then come the various methods of deception; the wrapper must be exact in color, and it is dyed; the shape mast be the same, and the maker skilled in this particular form must have a higher price, or be will go over to a rival house.
Instances of these kind of difficulties are constantly related, and an employer has frequently to advance large sums to his best workmen, to keep them in good -humor; when this quality fails them, the rival will pay all they owe, to get them into his workshop, the best makers being always in demand, and earning from -two to six dollars a day, according to their skill.
The leaf requires to be in a particular stage of moisture, to work to advantage, and you may see, as the evening hour of closing the factory comes on, the master mind is dropping or sprinkling his leaves, and laying them out all over the room in various proportions, according to ascertained necessity. And here an-<other process is resorted to; this is of course the moment for dyeing the wrapper; but it is also the opportunity embraced to flavor what is to constitute the interior; -a popular brand must be kept as nearly as possible of one taste; as in wine, it .is easy to deceive in this particular, and the fitting is immersed in a solution of other tobaccos, made to resemble as nearly as possible the flavor required. Thus, a good tasted crop will flavor a whole invoice of cigars very probably manufactured from Virginia, or tobacco imported from some other island. This is done in wines of all countries, and it is surely as fair a transaction in cigars.
Cigar making is a profitable operation, though it may be deemed of inferior importance to the sugar crop. Both combined have made money extremely abundant during the late season of high prices. Eight millions of specie arrived in Havana in March alone, and the rate of interest was but two per cent per annum; new banks were going into operation on a speculative scale, and it was seasonably argued that cash so easily collected as it was, would lead to the ruin of many now called wealthy. Cuba has its revulsions as well as New York and Philadelphia.
The cultivation of the island is slovenly in the extreme. There is often as much difficulty experienced in ploughing the land as in a new clearing incumbered with stumps in the United States, from the underlying coral rock; our own ploughs are occasionally introduced, but the inhabitants give the preference to the annexed singular and awkward implement. The horse, ox, or mule, is geared to the end of the long shaft by a chain, and how the apparatus is made to scratch a little furrow, is a mystery to the uninitiated.
A Cuban plough!.
Tobacco and its adulterations, is the title of a new English book by Henry P. Prescott; it proves that Europeans smoke a compound of the leaves of rhubarb, docks, burdock, beech, plantain, oak, and elm, and other unsavory compounds. He shows that the leaves of different plants are frequently covered with minute hairs, which, to a casual observer, look all alike, but on examination with the microscope they are found to present differences so decided that the kind of leaf to which they belong can be clearly indicated. Thus the minute fragments of leaves may be made to tell the story of their origin.