Article 7 * Part II - originally published in the June/July 1999 issue of "The Cigar Label Gazette"

cigar label art author pic Did You Know?
by Chip Brooks

Article #7 * Part II

Factory 417 Part I introduced W. C. Frutiger & Co; how he got started in the cigar manufacturing business in Red Lion, PA; his grandson Bob Frutiger and how I met Bob 'on-line'. Both Part I & II share Bob's recollections and stories of the famed cigar maker for more than half a century from the early 1900's through the 1960's.

"Did You Know?" - "FACTORY 417"

cigar label art card

With a population of approximately 5,000 in 1947, there were still 60 cigar factories remaining in Red Lion. Before Factory 417 started using machines to make cigars, they had hundreds of different molds for the various cigar shapes and sizes. Note: In the early 1900's there were over 450 shapes, widths, lengths and ring sizes (my guess is that today there are less than 20 sizes and shapes of cigars available). In 1950 when the factory switched from hand rolled to machine made cigars there was only ONE shape & size: PANATELLA. The 'Panatella' was the most popular cigar size of that era - 5 ˝ inches long with a 48 ring (the circumference). The primary reasons for only one cigar style were the difficulty in changing the molds from one shape to another (approx. 6 hours per machine) and the molds themselves were very expensive. In the 50's and 60's Frutiger & Co. used six machines to manufacture cigars. Each machine produced 5,000 cigars per day. Remember in Part I, we had defined an exceptional roller as one capable of rolling 800 cigars per day. Now with the 'modern technology' of machine rolled cigars, Factory 417 was producing 30,000 cigars per day with only 10 employees as compared to 135 employees in the 20's and 30's. Their premium cigars were Bank Note and Sun Maid. There were no copyright infringement problems that Bob is aware of with Sun Maid cigars and "The Sun Maid Corp".

sun maid cigar box label
(Sun Maid Cigars)

From 1952 - 1955, while in his late teens, Bob worked at Factory 417 (oops, sorry Bob, gave your age away). His responsibilities varied from processing tobacco to delivering cigars to local retailers. As Bob 'toiled' in his grandfather's factory he noticed bundles and bundles of Big Wolf labels which were being stored but not being used at the time. There are two versions of Big Wolf: the common J. Smith litho and the more scarce Schlegel litho. The Schlegel version has no writing on the bottom of the label; this is the major difference between the 2 labels. As Bob has no records or copyright documents pertaining to any of the titles Factory 417 used, it is virtually impossible to trace back the origins or the reasons for changing litho companies.

schlegel cigar box label
(Schlegel Big Wolf)
jsmith cigar box label
(J.Smith Big Wolf)

Another label that Bob recalls seeing stacked by the bundles in Factory 417's storeroom is Hambone. Hambone cigars fell out of popularity in the early 40's, most likely as a result of the politically incorrect theme of the label. Unfortunately, there is not much information about this label. When was the last time you saw a Hambone inner label that wasn't on a box? Bob doesn't even have one! What happened to all of those bundles? One of the more advanced collectors, Si Bass, has one and estimates that there are less than FOUR known. Bob has provided scans of an inner found on the box of 50 and the very cool top wrap label in brown tones. The image on the box of 50 is the same found on the box of 25 except the label has been factory trimmed to fit.

hambone inner cigar box label
(Rare Inner)
hambone 50 box cigar box label
(Box of 50)
hambone top label
(Top Wrap)

During its heyday (circa 20's-30's), quality 5˘ cigars rolled in Red Lion used tobacco which had been aged approximately five years. As a result of the tremendous demand for cigars after W.W. II and in an attempt to keep up with that demand , the cigar manufacturers began using tobacco which had been aged for only one year. This was the beginning of the end; the start of the decline of the tobacco industry in Red Lion. In addition to using younger tobacco in their cigars, the manufacturers also stopped using imported tobacco (primarily Cuban) in their fillers. They opted for the more easily obtained, cheaper and milder Pennsylvania tobacco.

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factory 417 cigar label art
(Factory 417 circa 1950)

One of the last labels produced at Factory 417 was F&S which stood for Frutiger and Sons (in Bob's opinion, it was not a very good cigar). Factory 417 closed its doors for the last time shortly after W.C.'s death in 1967. The factory (building) and all the equipment was auctioned off for a total of $7,200. The auctioneer was Jake Gilbert, father of Steven Gilbert who is one of the larger label dealers in the U.S. today. For those of you who are 'new' to label collecting, Jake Gilbert and Mark Trout are the two dudes who found the bulk of the labels that are in our collections today (this excludes the Euro labels which are gaining popularity and will be the subject of a future article). As is generally the case with Historic buildings, sites etc., the old site of the famous cigar Factory 417 is now a parking lot.

The past is not completely lost, as there is still one active factory remaining in Red Lion. The Van Sylke & Horton factory owned by Clark Jacobs. Mr. Jacobs is a very active gentlemen around his ninetieth year. His factory produces Brooks (I wonder if I could claim a relation?) and Canadian Club cigars. Also, as recently as two years ago, a local PA factory was manufacturing White Orchid cigars.

It seems only appropriate to end the story of W.C. Frutiger, Factory 417 and Red Lion, PA with a New Year's Eve tradition practiced today. While Bob and a friend roll cigars in the Red Lion Historical Society building (in the Town Square), 1,500 to 2,000 people gather outside to celebrate the incoming New Year. As the countdown begins, they wait in anticipation (not to see the ball drop in Times Square) to see an Eight Foot cigar held by a large Lion RISE to the top of the building. Times Square has nothing on these Red Lion locals! By the way, Bob rolls a pretty mean cigar…I've smoked a few.

8ft cigar
(8ft Cigar Rising to the Top)

As the cigar industry built the town of Red Lion and was the livelihood of most of its inhabitants, it seems fitting to remember the past 100 years by celebrating the New Year in this fashion.

bob frutiger rolling cigarsThank you Bob.

Oh, about those Red Cloud labels I mentioned in Part I. In his youth, Bob and his buddies passed by the old closed Daniel Spangler factory daily. They noticed a loose board one day and their curiosity got the best of them; so they pried it off. The boys peered into the basement of the old factory and gazed upon stacks and stacks of Red Cloud labels. Since the basement had been exposed to the outside elements, over the years the rain and snow water damaged most of the Red Cloud stock. This is why Red Cloud labels which were thought to be common (numbering in the many thousands) all these years is really not so common in Mint form. The majority of Red Cloud labels available have water damage, foxing or have been trimmed. So I guess we can blame that on Bob or maybe those of us that do have mint Red Cloud labels should thank Bob and the follies of his youth?

**A long overdue thanks goes out to my proof reader…the person who untangles my dangling participles, completes my sentence fragments and smoothes over my poor use of the English language…my wife Marilyn. Funny, now that I think about it, she proofs my life as well…
Thank You Darlin' !!! **

May You and Your Collection Prosper!

If you have any info on other labels - E-mail or Snail Mail me at.
316 N. Ave. 66, Suite #8, Los Angeles, CA 90042-2971
E-mail * chipbrooks@earthlink.net

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