El Lector, Cigar factory reader

El Lector, Cigar factory reader

The reader

As far back as the 1800s, and said to be in as many as 500 factory buildings, cigar factory workers were entertained and educated by “El Lector”, “The Reader”.  The lector, a man (or later, woman) who was charged with reading to factory workers as they sat at their workstations for long hours. Without any heavy machinery to stifle noise, a lector could broadcast his or her voice to hundreds of rollers, keeping their minds engaged as their hands performed mindless, repetitive work. Newspapers were read, and so were novels. Some would work harder and longer if it meant staying to see how a plot would unfold.

Once again I’m completely fascinated by more interesting cigar culture history, from Cuba, to Key West, and up to Tampa Florida, the Lector became part of the fabric and integral to the sanity of the rollers.  Respected in their community and often times recognized for the quality and strength of voice, Lectors were often viewed as an intellectual.

In most cases Lectors were not hired by, or compensated by the factories themselves…encouraged by the factories the workers would give 25-50 cents of their weekly salary to the Lector.  Also, because there was no official relationship between the factory and the Lector…they could be thrown out and refused future work.  If a factory owner held specific political views the Lector had to take care and not offend with opposing views; sometimes it took real skill to inform and educate while not crossing the resident factory line.

The practice of reading aloud while others listen intently as they engage in manual labor has a long and distinguished tradition through out the Caribbean in the practice of cigar manufacture. Because the job of rolling cigar after cigar could become monotonous, the workers wanted something to occupy and stimulate the mind. Thus arose the tradition of lectors, who sat perched on an elevated platform in the cigar factory, reading to the workers. It started in Cuba and was brought to the United States more particularly to Key West in 1865 when thousands of Cuban cigar workers emigrated to Florida to escape Spanish oppression.

The Partagas factory allowed a lector on the condition the factory had approval over what could be read. Novels were rarely a problem, and works like Les Miserables became popular choices. But when papers like La Aurora became more politicized, railing against pastimes like cockfights and billiards and pushing for labor unions, harder lines were drawn. In 1866, Francisco Lersundi, the captain general of Cuba, ordered the police commander to enforce a ban of lectors, with police patrolling the factories to quiet any activity.

It wasn’t until the conclusion of the Ten Years’ War in 1878 that reading resumed, and not until the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898 that the practice was no longer in danger of being stifled. By this time, lectors had evolved from being volunteer workers to full-time professionals, typically from educational or communications backgrounds. Reading materials were voted on by workers. If some were dismayed to hear the works of Rudyard Kipling or Ibsen, they might balk at paying their share of the lector’s salary.

El Lector, the reader

The advent of radio

Unlike humans, stations were inexhaustible, and could offer a variety of dramas, sports coverage, and up-to-the-second updates on world affairs.

While many factories in Cuba and the U.S. had radio equipment installed, a large number did not. Those that did held lectores in such regard that the two diversions began to co-exist, with the lector starting the day with news and historical trivia before a broadcast would begin. Later in the day, they’d resume a novel before once again turning the floor over to the airwaves.

Part of their stability had to do with their expanded roles in factories. A lector was not just a source of white noise, but a liaison between workers and the authors, artists, and politicians who wished to address them from the pulpit. When factory baseball teams needed an announcer for games, their lector was an obvious choice.

The profession remains a fixture of many Cuban cigar factories, where industrial evolution hasn’t yet seen the total obsolescence of hand-rolled craftsmanship. The voice of the lector and lectora has survived both political unrest and the advent of technology to inspire their listeners. It is no coincidence that rollers favored the work of Alexandre Dumas—one of Cuba’s most famous exports is the Montecristo. (information provided by mentalfloss.com)

Let’s wrap this up

My brothers and sisters of the leaf, thanks again for spending this time with me as I attempt to shine brightness on our wonderful pass time.  I hope you found this read interesting and enjoyed learning more about this thing we love.

Until next time, find that special corner and have that favorite smoke.

ThinkCigar…it’s a lifestyle.

why we smoke cigars_ThinkCigar

Why do we smoke cigars ?

Indeed, why do we do it;


So many ways to address this question…to give an answer that might satisfy, may prove to be difficult; because the person asking the question most likely has never indulged in occasional cigar smoking, and therefore my have difficulty coming to terms with the answers given.

I imagine it might be helpful to lend some historical value to the subject at hand before we start waxing all nostalgic about our grandfathers and great uncles sucking on some retro sticks at family gatherings.

Our good friend Wikipedia states:

A cigar is a rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco leaves made to be smoked. They are produced in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. Since the 20th century, almost all cigars are made up of three distinct components: the filler, the binder leaf which holds the filler together, and a wrapper leaf, which is often the best leaf used. Often the cigar will have a band printed with the cigar manufacturer’s logo. Modern cigars often come with 2 bands, especially Cuban Cigar bands, showing Limited Edition (Edicion Limitada) bands displaying the year of production.

Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities primarily in Central America and the islands of the Caribbean, including Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, and Puerto Rico; it is also produced in the Eastern United States, the Mediterranean countries of Italy and Spain (in the Canary Islands), and in Indonesia and the Philippines of Southeast Asia.

The origins of cigar smoking are still unknown. A Guatemalan ceramic pot dating back to the tenth century features Mayan smoking tobacco leaves tied together with a string.

We could also talk about how Columbus brought back tobacco products to Europe; but we’ll let you handle that bit of research…the real point, it’s been going on for a long-ass-time.

Lets get personnel

thinkcigar it's a lifestyle

It’s time to point the barrel of this question right at my head…let’s get singular, why do I smoke cigars, me, this kid, this guy…”because I freakin love em” lol.  Ok seriously, I have my reasons and justifications: (1) a decent cigar takes me from 45 minutes to an hour to finish which in-turn guarantees me an hour for myself (2) it’s ritualistic in it’s preparation…the way you cut your cigar, the way you light your cigar pretty much remain consistent (3) your smoking environment is for the most part of your choosing.  These are things that very much appeal to me, and most of the enthusiasts that I know.

In the beginning it’s about developing your palette and figuring out your tolerances, learning the differences of mild, medium, and bold, the differences of smoking before or after a meal…do you like scotch, rum or wine with your smoke; or just pounding some beer with it.  Depending on what I’m smoking , and when i’m smoking will influence what I’m choosing to drink (if at all).

Having a cigar for me is like being on a short vacation, some of my most clear and lucid thinking has been achieved, while I’ve been on holiday; in and out of the country, and for the short respites’ I enjoy while enjoying my favorite cigars.  Because of the cigar I enjoy the friendship of people that I would have never met, relationships that have enriched my life.  Different politics, religion, races, gender, economic backgrounds are all transcended for that hour…while I’ve given you a lot to digest for my reasons; it barely scratches the surface.


If you’ve noticed, I haven’t mentioned anything about taste and flavor…this thing is so much more than that.  It’s a lifestyle.





Daniel Marshal gold cigar

Let’s Smoke Some Gold…Cigars ?

Who is Daniel Marshall ?


Daniel Marshall

Some enter into a business with intent. Others are surprised to discover that a talent, product or skill set coupled with a personal passion turned out to be something that they can make a living from. That was the case for Daniel Marshall, a renowned humidor maker who also has his own cigar lines.

Marshall’s desire to build things by hand came from his dream to build a sailboat that would allow him to sail around the world—a dream he’s had since he was 10 years old. He entered into the world of cigars unintentionally, after setting out to make a thank-you gift for his girlfriend’s grandfather. Marshall wanted to make her grandfather something he could store his favorite cigars—Dunhill Monte Cruz 280 Panatelas—inside. He ended up creating a cigar case made of teak wood and presenting it as a gift. Impressed with the quality of the case, his girlfriend’s grandfather told him that he was sure that Dunhill would buy the case and that Marshall would be able to use the money he earned to build his dream sailboat. This launched Marshall into the humidor business and world of cigars full time. Tobacco Business recently sat down with Marshall to discuss how he built his brand and get his take on how you can build your own impressive following and notoriety.

Tobacco Business: Tell us about the first humidor you built.
Daniel Marshall: It was an Alfred Dunhill humidor with a bottle of Dunhill Whisky inside. Dunhill said if I could replicate it, they would give me an order. I did that, and in two weeks, I had a purchase order for $250,000 from Dunhill for more humidors. Next, I set up a humidor factory in Santa Ana, California. That was back in 1982, more than three and a half decades ago.

Daniel Marshall

Your humidors and your cigars have an impressive following that includes celebrities, politicians and other affluent figures. How can other accessory and cigar makers go about building a following for their brands?
Three words: quality, commitment and trust. Do exceptional work with heart, and those who appreciate the best of the best and can afford the top quality will know about you and seek you out. There is a saying: “Build it and they will come.” This is how it works.

You’ve done a few collaborations with other brands and celebrities. How do you choose who to collaborate with so that it’s beneficial to your brand?
I choose to collaborate with anyone by identifying shared common values and loves. I am excited to do charitable work for the environment and to help children become all that they can be.

It was a great honor and privilege to be chosen by Universal Studios to make a humidor to commemorate the Blu-ray release of one of its most well-known films, Scarface; to be chosen by Hennessy to make 800 humidors for their XO product; and to work with Bally of Switzerland on 500 humidor/presentation boxes for their bespoke shoe collection called the Scribe [collection]. All of us share the same commitment to quality, luxury and creating the benchmark of quality.

Daniel Marshall Golden Torpedo

In addition to humidors, you have your own branded cigars: the Red Label and the 24kt Golden Torpedo. What made you decide to expand your brand by launching your own cigars?
Twenty-one years ago, customers and store owners would ask me, “Marshall, you make the best humidors in the world—where are your cigars? We trust you for making humidors, and we would trust you to be as fanatical with a cigar blend and creating one as you are with your humidors.”

So again, trust was essential and the reason for making a cigar. The challenge was to make a cigar with one of the world’s top cigar makers during the height of the cigar boom in 1996. It was something that could only happen with a strong friendship in place. Manuel Quesada created a cigar for our brand because of our friendship and because of trust.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most and why?
I have learned that to have a successful business and life, you have to enjoy and love it all. I enjoy all aspects of it—from the administrative aspects of our company, to working with my wonderful team in the factory getting covered in dust, designing humidors and creating all kinds of new humidor and cigar collections, to answering these thought-provoking questions that take me back through the past 35 years of my life, to enjoying cigars with our global family around the world.

– Story by Antoine Reid

This story first appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.