Article #14 - originally published in the May/June 2001 issue of "The Cigar Label Gazette"

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

Article #14

After you have been collecting labels for a while and you look past the beauty, the art, the humor and the sheer pleasure these wonderful images have to offer...you start seeing more of the detail within the image.  You gaze upon a beautiful lady holding a laurel wreath in one hand and tobacco leaves in the other.  There are brilliant 22ct. gold medals surrounding her, a big blue sky with puffy white clouds in the background and an anchor lying at her feet.  An anchor?!?  Well, that doesn't work.  There isn't even water or a ship in the label.  Aah, but your not thinking back 100 years ago when the anchor was used as a symbol of Commerce.

Do you ever wonder why there are so many odd items within the images?  Have you ever wondered why so many labels have a pretty lady with a Red Cap on her head or what the origins of the character Uncle Sam are?
I have...

Did You Know?
"Symbolism" within the image...

Due to space restraints and Ed's printing costs...I will only show a few examples of the images that relate to various symbols; I have several hundred symbolic labels to choose from.  I will list a few additional label titles at the end of each section.  You can call them up on the Cigar Label CD ROM or eventually I will have this article on my site with several added examples...then you can bitch about how long the page takes to load...Ha!

Internet Side Note: The original Gazette article had 14 images...this Internet version has over 40 examples...when you see a word that is underlined...just click on it.   Enjoy!

La Gran Via inner cigar label

I preface this article by stating that my conclusions are drawn from my extensive research on the many facets that comprise the symbolism of these items.  I have tried to imagine what the artist was trying to convey through his art, as well as what was timely and important to the country during that period.  It ain't easy.  To make it even tougher, many of the symbols used had Freemason ties and as I am not a Mason, difficult to decipher.  So, bear with me as I try and sort this stuff out.

Protecta inner cigar label

Commerce, Industry & Labor
Protecta is a great example of all three. The next time you are enjoying your collection, pay special attention to how many labels have these symbols somewhere within the image: anchors, bails of tobacco or wrapped tobacco leaves, ships in the harbor, trains, anvils, hammers, a big muscular arm clinching a hammer, fly wheels-gears-cogs,

Honest Labor inner cigar label

black smiths, sailors (non military), winged wheels, factory buildings, the god Mercury or Hermes, globes of the earth, carpenters, factory workers, miners, farmers (harvest scenes), brick layers and artists or artist palettes.

Our Knight inner cigar label

All of these symbols represent Commerce, Industry and Labor working hand in hand to create a strong and prosperous America.  As with the Military and Patriotic images, the artists were trying to stir the cigar buyer's sense of pride and therefore sell more cigars. Additional labels that fall into the category of Commerce/Industry/Labor: (click on titles)
4 Kings , La Industria , La Industria 2 , Labor's Choice , Knight of Labor , Industry , Honest , Honest Fives , Albany Gateway , National Union , King Iron , Spirit of Times , Mechanics Delight and Golden Ship - to name a few.

UT Arcos inner cigar label

Then there is the Caduceus:
I could write an entire article on this strong Commerce symbol but I will try and keep it as succinct as possible. The Caduceus is usually a winged staff or wand with two serpents intertwined about it. Although, I do have several images of the Caduceus with the serpents intertwined but without the wings on top.

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La Triunity cigar label

In Greek mythology this symbol is associated with the god Hermes.
Hermes was the messenger of the gods and conductor of souls to Hades. Though he was the god of many things, for our purposes, he was the god of Travelers, Luck and Commerce. Hermes is portrayed with winged hat and sandals, carrying the Caduceus.

In Roman mythology the symbol is associated with the god Mercury.
Mercury was the messenger of the gods as well as the god of Commerce (trade, profit, merchants and travelers).

Side Note: The staff of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, has a SINGLE snake wrapped around it. His staff was also called a Caduceus and was adopted as a symbol by the medical profession (although the modern medical symbols I have seen use the double snake).

The MD outer cigar label

Tobacco in the 19th and early 20th century was considered by many to have medicinal qualities. The Caduceus was also used to symbolize these qualities. It would seem logical if a label has both the Caduceus and Commerce symbols - it would represent Commerce. If it were just a pretty lady holding the Caduceus and some tobacco leaves...it very easily could represent the medicinal qualities of tobacco. I would be remiss if I didn't state that in other cultures, including the Egyptians, the Caduceus is also a symbol of fertility and is emblematic of the magic potency of a deity and of the prosperity of peace.

Aurora outer cigar label

The image of the Caduceus seems to be more widely used in European labels. Though American labels occasionally used the Caduceus they relied more on many of the other symbols listed above to portray Commerce. By using the Caduceus, do you think the artists were trying to imply that their cigar was better because the gods approved of it or that it could cure all that ails you? Additional labels that use the Caduceus:  (click on titles) American Trade , Our Pride , La Riqueza , La Majagua , Key West National , El Mercurio , El Credito , El Arte Cubano , Cuban Dawn , Reina Columbia and Ambos Mundos - to name a few.

More Symbolism:
The following list of symbols may also be found in you collection. Many of these symbols are associated with Lady Liberty, Lady Columbia or the most portrayed Lady of all...Red Cap. Why you ask? The answer is in "Symbolism" part II in the next Gazette (I think that is called a 'tease').

Bald Eagle
The official white headed bird of the United States, native to North America. During the late 1700's, images of Lady Liberty feeding a hovering eagle became very popular symbolizing the relationship between winged freedom and the strength of the United States.

Broken Chains
Broken chains, sometimes seen in the hands of Lady Liberty, symbolize a break from tyranny or enslavement.

Broken Jug or Vase
Often shown lying at the feet of Lady Liberty, the broken jug symbolizes one's break with tyranny. Both the chains and the jug are Old World symbols of oppression.

Cornucopia
A symbol of plentitude, strong harvests and abundance: The Cornucopia usually had cigars or gold coins overflowing from its mouth.

Depiction of George Washington (a Freemason)
Even during Washington's lifetime, the country's first president was deified as a perfect icon of the United States' democratic ideals. Freedom from oppression and tyranny rings out loudly in this image with Washington between Lady Liberty as Red Cap and the statue of Lady Liberty.

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Washington w/red cap cigar label

Laurel Wreath
On military emblems, the laurel wreath represents honor and valor. Most commonly it is identified with victory and/or success and is usually worn on the head of a victor or award winner. In cigar labels, it is often seen held in the hand of an outstretched arm - symbolic of the brand's superiority or success.

Liberty Tree
A symbol of the young American government, the native pine tree signified "the tree of life, ever green, ever bearing".

Olive & Oak Branch
The Olive branch is a universal symbol for peace or the offering of peace. The Oak branch represents lasting strength.

Rattlesnake
A Native American snake, the rattlesnake exemplified both "constant vigilance" (with no eyelids, its eyes are perpetually open) and the American rebellion (the rattlesnake attacks only when provoked).

Shield of the United States
An age-old image of defense, military strength and nationalism.

Union Glory cigar label

The phrase "E Pluribus Unum" ("Out of many, one") is seen on some labels with the Shield of the U. S. and is also on the $1 bill. The colors of the Pales (thirteen vertical bars) are those used in the flag of the United States of America. White signifies purity and innocence; Red, hardiness and valor; Blue, the color of the Chief (top horizontal bar), signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice. The Shield is used in many cigar labels but very seldom does the it have the correct number of stars or stripes. Aah, I can see you counting those stars and stripes now.  Side Note: Much of the imagery used in American currency; the Great Seal of the United States and the Shield of the United States were designed by Freemasons. Most commonly the 13 stars and bars of the Shield are said to represent the original 13 colonies; however the number 13 is very important in Freemasonry symbolism and doesn't have anything to do with the original 13 Colonies...but that's another article. Oh by the way, the phrase "E Pluribus Unum" has 13 letters - go figure...?

Fasces
An ax head projecting from a bundle of elm or birch rods tied together with straps. In ancient Rome it was the symbol of authority and power. The Fasces bearer would proceed before the Roman Magistrate alerting all in view that his 'boss' was a big wig. Lowering of the Fasces was a form of saluting an even higher official. Removing the ax within the city signified recognition of the people's sovereignty. The premise behind the Fasces is that one stick is more easily broken than a bundle of sticks or in unity there is strength. The word Fascist is derived from this concept. Benito Mussolini adopted the symbol as the emblem of the Italian Fascist movement in 1919.

Banner Queen cigar label

In Banner Queen, the Fasces shows the authority and power of Lady Liberty and the Red Cap represents America's break from oppression and tyranny. Additional labels that used the Fasces:  (click on titles) American Crown , Flor de la Fama , Air of Freedom , Republican Success , American Twins , Vienna Beauties and El Romano - to name a few.

A big Thanks goes out to my buddy and inspiration Major Si Bass for his help, guidance and for allowing me to scan some of his wonderful symbolic imagery.

And, to my proof reader Marilyn Brooks...who spends hours trying to convince me that my sentence structure sucks and then takes the time to make it all mo'betta...Thank You!!!

Hope you enjoyed the info...until next time,

May You and Your Collection Prosper!

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