Cigar Production

Specialty hand-rolling factories in Key West and Tampa produced high-quality authentic Cuban style cigars.

Interior view of a cigar factory during a blending operation: Tampa, Florida (19--)

Interior view of a cigar factory during a blending operation: Tampa, Florida (19--)

Image number: RC17388

Workers selecting cigar wrappers : Tampa, Florida (19--)

Workers selecting cigar wrappers : Tampa, Florida (19--)

Image number: RC07647

Segregation by Race and Gender

Cuban society was not as rigidly segregated according to race as in the southern United States. Cuban Americans in Ybor City of all skin colors worked side by side in the cigar factories and belonged to the same social clubs.

In the 1890s, laws formalizing the segregation of public facilities and businesses, often called “Jim Crow” laws, spread throughout the South. The separation of jobs between white and black workers became more common and certain specialized jobs became off-limits for black workers.

Jobs in the cigar factories were also sometimes segregated by gender. Some factories limited the most skilled positions to men. Women were often relegated to traditionally female jobs such as "stemmers," those removing the center stem from leaves, whereas men occupied other areas of cigar work such as selecting wrapper leaves.

However, small factories called chinchals employed men and women at all skill levels in order to maximize the work of fewer employees. Women became more commonly employed in skilled positions at large factories by the 1930s, although still working for lower wages.

Women removing part of the center seam of filler tobacco (192-)

Women removing part of the center seam of filler tobacco (192-)

Image number: HR020

Men and women making cigars by hand: Tampa, Florida (192-)

Men and women making cigars by hand: Tampa, Florida (192-)

Image number: HR006

Close-up of cigar worker (192-)

Close-up of cigar worker (192-)

Image number: HR024

Mirta Perez seals tube to retain cigar's seasoned flavor : Tampa, Florida (1947)

Mirta Perez seals tube to retain cigar's seasoned flavor: Tampa, Florida (1947)

Image number: C008568

Women banding cigars, wrapping them in cellophane, and boxing them (192-)

Women banding cigars, wrapping them in cellophane, and boxing them (192-)

Image number: HR012

In the trimming room, placing finishing labels and Internal Revenue stamps (192-)

In the trimming room, placing finishing labels and Internal Revenue stamps (192-)

Image number: HR108

Box of Cuesta-Rey cigars made in Tampa (192-)

Box of Cuesta-Rey cigars made in Tampa (192-)

Image number: HR013