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Commentary: This One’s A Wrap

2 Apr 2012

The other evening we streamed an old movie to our television and not long into it I got a surprise. One of the actors reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigar.

But that wasn’t the surprise. The movie, The Spanish Cape Mystery, was the first Ellery Queen film, and it was released in 1935. In that era, cigar smoking was common. You’d even see photos of Marlene Dietrich sporting a cigar in the 1930s. No, the surprise came as I watched Berton Churchill—not only aptly named for a cigar smoker, but a long-time actor and Screen Actors Guild founder you’d almost certainly recognize if you watch many pre-1940 movies—slide the cigar from a cellophane sleeve. I knew cellophane had been around a long time, but I had no idea it was used on cigars back then.

So I immediately turned to my buddy Doc Stogie, who I always think of as a font of cigar knowledge, from major to minutia. In fact, Doc’s website is so focused on education, he recently changed it from a .com domain to one that ends with .info.

Doc, of course, knew just where to turn for a definitive answer: Tony Hyman, whose National Cigar Museum is an online treasure. (Warning: Don’t go there unless you have time to while away because you’ll be deeply immersed in the fascinating photos, stories, and lore before you know it.)

The cellophane story goes back a ways before the 1930s and isn’t quite straightforward, according to what Doc reported.

“In 1921, domestic cigar makers started making short-filler cigars to better compete in the post-war boom,” he wrote. “Since short-filled dried out more
rapidly, cigar makers employed foil to preserve cigars.”

Then, in 1931, tobacco giant P. Lorillard began using cellophane on its Postmaster cigars, which listed at 2 for 5 cents in boxes of 100, Doc told me.

And the kicker? Well, Doc let me know that in the same year, Cornell University issued a solemn warning against “eating transparent wrappings
(cellophane) of cigars and other articles.”

There you have it. While it doesn’t quite live up to the intrigue of the Spanish Cape Mystery, the Tale of the Cellophane Conundrum is solved.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

3 Responses to “Commentary: This One’s A Wrap”

  1. Jermaine Monday, April 2, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    Thanks, George. I didn't realize they made cello cigars before the 1930s, and I didn't realize movies had been invented then either. 🙂

  2. Swede214 Monday, April 2, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

    Very interesting story, there is always something to learn, about cigars.

  3. Tyler Sunday, April 8, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    Great article, George!