Badger Cigar Company Exhibit

A majority of US adults smoked by 1945, and pharmacies, confectioneries, and cigar stores sold tobacco on every street corner. Badger Cigar Company, located on Water Street until the early 1950s, was a popular source of producer and retailer of tobacco related items. The Chudnow Museum tobacco store exhibit is currently on display through early 2015. The exhibit artifacts were all chosen, researched, inventoried and displayed by three spring interns - Dane Mariani, Ben Locke and Casey Coffey.

How Did We Date Our Cigar Boxes?

Above is an image showing what is considered to be the “5th Generation” in tax stamp design. These stamps were placed over the cover of the cigar box, indicating the number of cigars inside, and their class letter. There are a variety of tax stamp designs, dating back to the Civil War when they were first introduced to generate wartime revenue for the United States government.

With even just a partial amount of a given stamp intact, we were able to narrow down dates to a particular decade or year, and if a cancellation date were printed (as seen on the first, middle, and last stamps above), the exact day. Tax stamps are an extremely useful tool for dating cigar boxes because federal tax laws and tax stamps changed quite often.

First tax stamp issued in 1863
First tax stamp issued in 1863
Some of our cigar boxes had a “National Recovery Act” symbol printed or pasted on them as seen below. These types of images only appeared from 1933-1935.

Milwaukee Company in Profile: F.F. Adams & Co.

The firm’s history can be traced back to Charles Athearn of Buffalo, NY, who established the Chas. Athearn & Co. in 1847, which was located at 259 East Water Street in Milwaukee. Athearn never came to Milwaukee, and on his death in 1854, his firm was sold to Cyrus Adams, who managed a nearby store on 420 East Water Street. Adams continued the business under the name C. Adams & Co. until 1860, when Francis F. Adams purchased his brother Cyrus’ interest (Cyrus moved to California), and changed the name to F.F. Adams & Co. In 1884, F.F. Adams & Co. was averaging a yearly profit of $1 million. The favorite brands manufactured by the firm were: Peerless, Excelsior, Standard, Dexter, Old Tom, Aromatic, Moss Rose, Pride of the West, and Ambrosia. In 1902, the Continental Tobacco Company acquired the entire capital stock of F.F. Adams for $2,205,090, approximately $57 million in today’s value.

Other Tobacco Companies That Were Based in Milwaukee

W.M. Steinmeyer

Williams and Brenckle

Geo. Allanson Co.
1886 Print Advertisement for F.F. Adams
1886 Print Advertisement for Emil Ladwig, a "jobber" was a business that would roll the cigars to be sold under another companies product name
Jan.-Feb. 1918 Price List for Steinmeyers Co., a large local grocery store

Tobacco Prices

Jan.-Feb. 1918 Steinmeyers Co. price list for tobacco products

Cigar Box Art

Cigar manufacturers didn’t pull their punches when it came to advertising, and a major part of competing with so many other players at the time was creating the most appealing and extravagant imagery on the boxes of their product. Lithograph companies such as O.L. Schwencke and Moehle Lithographic Co. created some of the most interesting cigar box artwork. Examples in our exhibit are: Crystal Flake, Our Pets, and Our Defense.

We hope you will visit the Badger Cigar tobacco exhibit! For more in-depth info on the history of all things cigars and tobacco, here are some useful resources:

By Ben Locke,
Museum Intern, Marquette University Anthropology Graduate



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