What This Country Needs…


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From 1913-1921, Thomas Riley Marshall was this nation’s 28th Vice-President.

He served with President Woodrow Wilson.

Here’s an interesting side note on Marshall.

He is the only known U.S. Vice President to have been exclusively targeted for assassination. The attempt came on July 2nd, 1915 in the Senate chambers.

Marshall was a prominent Indiana lawyer who also served as the Hoosier state’s 27th Governor.

But what Marshall is probably most famous for is a comment made during debate in  the Senate while a senator droned on about the country’s  needs.

Marshall leaned over to a colleague and uttered loudly, “What this country needs is a really good 5 cent cigar!”

Noted individuals like Winston Churchill, Fidel Castro, Groucho Marx, President Bill Clinton, Michael Jordan and even Mark Twain lit up and smoked cigars.

Twain is quoted as saying, “To cease smoking is the  easiest thing. I ought to know. I’ve done it a thousand times.”

Twain reportedly smoked up to 22 cigars each day although the average cigar smoker rarely smokes one daily.

Winston Churchill was such a fan of cigar smoking that he had a special oxygen mask constructed so he could puff while flying in planes at high altitudes.

During our family’s Independence Day celebration, my son-in-laws, grandson and I each smoked a cigar.

The last time we lit up was on a trip to Tennessee a few years ago.

To say we are avid cigar-smokers would be a huge stretch.

But being manly men as we are, the cigar ignition seemed appropriate on the evening of the Fourth.

One quick observation, when smoking a cigar, bugs seem to stay away.

So did the women but my eldest daughter did say they sort of smelled good…from a distance.

Statistics show there are about 17 million cigar smokers in the U.S. and 75% of them don’t inhale.

Women are more likely to choose flavored cigars while men tend towards the traditional smokes.

There are roughly 330,000,000 cigars imported to this country every year so that means, on average, each cigar smoker lights up close to 20 annually.

You asked about the phrase, “Close, but no cigar.”

It comes from the early 1900’s when cigars were actual carnival prizes and if your attempt at the reward came up short, you were, “Close, but no cigar.”

Obviously carnivals in those days were geared to the older set!

Sometimes cigars are referred to as “stogies”.


Tobacco was grown in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where they also made Conestoga wagons that settlers used while travelling westward.

The wagon train leaders often smoked long, home-grown cigars that gave off a very strong smell and a cloud of it followed those “trains”.

Thus, “stogies”.

“Cigar” is the English translation of the word “cigarro” and Roman Catholic missionaries often gave out tobacco seeds.

You can easily fit a thousand of them inside a thimble.

Throughout history, many thought cigars had medicinal qualities and some of us are old enough to remember having someone “blow smoke” in your ear to cure an earache.

Modern-day politicians often “blow smoke” but it’s directed at the other end of our bodies.

The first U.S. based cigar maker, the Connecticut Broadleaf Company was founded in 1820.

Back in the 1800’s, cigar smoking was rather common and cigarette smoking was relatively rare in this country.

In the late 1900’s there were more than 10,000 American cigar companies.

Christopher Columbus introduced Cuban tobacco to the Western world and the natives burned and inhaled the leaves. and called it “cohiba”.

Many Americans thought Cuban cigars were the best, probably enhanced by the fact that they were embargoed for many years.

But knowledgeable cigar folks say Nicaraguan, Dominican and Honduran smokes can compete with them.

Did you even wonder about the paper bands on cigars?

Seems Queen Catherine the Great of Russia smoked cigars but didn’t like the smell of it on her fingers.

So she had silk bands created that allowed her to hold her cigars while not actually touching them.

Oh, by the way, at Antietam, General Robert E. Lee delivered orders wrapped around 3 cigars.

His faithful messenger was Jake Swisher.

Jake lit up one of those cigars and enjoyed it so much, he said, “Sweet!”

Maybe that’s where “Swisher Sweets” started.

Premium handmade cigars are natural and artisnal since they are made purely of tobacco and nothing else.

Good cigar tobacco undergoes fermentation and aging.

It’s been said that 200 pairs of hands touch each cigar and the best, most experienced Dominican roller can make more than 200 cigars a day.

Each cigar has a wrapper, binder and filler.,

The foot of a cigar is where the filler is visible while the head is the top or tip, finished with a cap.

The neater and more-symetrical the head and cap of a cigar is, the greater the skill of the roller.

And price is not always the truest indicator of the best cigar.

At today’s prices, those old “carnival” models from the 1900’s would now set you back from 28 cents to $5.71 each.

Experienced puffers say it should take you about 45 minutes to smoke a 5 inch cigar.

They also leave the ash on as long as possible because it minimizes contact between the air and lit tobacco, keeping the cigar cooler and less bitter.

As a kid, I always enjoyed the smell of a cigar at a football game but when I smoke one, I feel the need to destroy my clothes and gargle ad infinitum afterwards.

When our girls were born, I think I handed out pink bubblegum cigars.

You can enjoy them and don’t need a lighter or a guillotine to partake.

But you still might have to brush your teeth afterwards.


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