How about a Mark Twain Cigar for Twain’s birthday?

November 30, 2013

Decades ago I caught Hal Holbrook‘s one-man play, “Mark Twain Tonight!” in a theatre in Washington, D.C. (possibly Ford’s Theatre, but I think not).  It was heaven.  I knew what to expect, but it still caught me by surprise: There is no curtain.  The opening of the second act is the lights slowly fading up.  The audience keeps talking until, suddenly, there is an enormous puff of cigar smoke from offstage.  The stunned audience gasps, then laughs, and at the peak of the laughter, Mark Twain treks on stage.

As a man’s reputation precedes him, so Mark Twain’s use of a cigar could  precede him onto a stage, or into a room.

Once upon a time, Mark Twain was THE symbol of a good cigar in America — he always had one, after all.

And so, some enterprising cigar company created Mark Twains.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a Mark Twain cigar to smoke, in his honor, on his birthday?  And remember, he shares a birthday with that other cigar conoisseur, Winston Churchill.

Advertisement taken from a caricature by Frederick Waddy first published in 1872. Mark Twain Papers, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley."

Advertisement taken from a caricature by Frederick Waddy first published in 1872. Mark Twain Papers, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

“DON’T FAIL TO SMOKE MARK TWAIN CIGARS.”  Heckuva slogan.  But not the only one.

Various cigar makers sold “Mark Twain” cigars from as early as 1870; probably the most famous, from the Wolf Brothers, were marketed from 1913, into the 1930s.  Twain died in 1910, so it is almost certain that none of the proceeds from the sale of these cigars went to his estate (I’d be happy to report otherwise, should anyone stumble upon such information).  Wolf Brothers Mark Twain Cigars were marketed under the slogan, “Known to Everyone — Liked By All.”  It was a slogan Twain devised himself, to use on handbills and signs advertising his lectures.

From a Cornell University Library exhibit on Mark Twain:

Since it uses the same image, we might assume this sign comes from the same company that produced the advertisement just above. From a Cornell University Library exhibit on Mark Twain: “Compton Label Works. Smoke the Popular Mark Twain Cigars Sold Everywhere. St. Louis, [ca. 1877-85]. It is not known when this cigar sign was first issued. The portrait is engraved after an 1874 profile photograph that was used on Mark Twain Cigars advertising as early as 1877. From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane”

Twain built at least three different fortunes.  Had to, after he’d lost the first one, and then the second.  It’s difficult to imagine Twain failing to seize on the marketing value of his own image.  But those were different times.

From the Cornell Library exhibit:  Mark Twain Cigar box. Pennsylvania: Wolf Bros., ca. 1913-1930.  Cigar manufacturers have long capitalized on the public association of Mark Twain with cigars. While various brands of “Mark Twain Cigars” had been marketed since the 1870s, the Wolf Brothers did not register their trademark until 1931. The box is emblazoned with a phrase—“Known to Everyone - Liked by All”—which was written by Mark Twain. Curiously, the word “cigars” is absent from the box, emphasizing that it was Mark Twain, and not necessarily a tobacco product, that was “Liked by All.”  From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

From the Cornell Library exhibit: Mark Twain Cigar box. Pennsylvania: Wolf Bros., ca. 1913-1930. Cigar manufacturers have long capitalized on the public association of Mark Twain with cigars. While various brands of “Mark Twain Cigars” had been marketed since the 1870s, the Wolf Brothers did not register their trademark until 1931. The box is emblazoned with a phrase—“Known to Everyone – Liked by All”—which was written by Mark Twain. Curiously, the word “cigars” is absent from the box, emphasizing that it was Mark Twain, and not necessarily a tobacco product, that was “Liked by All.” From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Were the cigars good? It’s unlikely a cigar could have stayed on the market for more than a decade without being of good enough quality to keep some customers coming back and asking for them specifically.  I have not found any descriptions of these older, 19th century and early-20th century Mark Twains, however.  (If you see one, will you call our attention to it?)

More from the Cornell University Library exhibit:  Mark Twain cigar sign. “Liked by All.” Baltimore: Parker Metal Dec. Company, ca. 1913-1931.  This is the sign used to advertise the five-cent Wolf cigars that bore Twain's name from 1913 into the late 1930s. “Mark Twain” appears in prominent red letters, flanked by “Liked by All” and “5¢ Cigars 5¢,” a motto that echos the words emblazoned on the cigar boxes themselves: “Mark Twain: Known to Everyone-Liked by All.”  From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

More from the Cornell University Library exhibit: Mark Twain cigar sign. “Liked by All.” Baltimore: Parker Metal Dec. Company, ca. 1913-1931. This is the sign used to advertise the five-cent Wolf cigars that bore Twain’s name from 1913 into the late 1930s. “Mark Twain” appears in prominent red letters, flanked by “Liked by All” and “5¢ Cigars 5¢,” a motto that echos the words emblazoned on the cigar boxes themselves: “Mark Twain: Known to Everyone-Liked by All.” From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

A modern incarnation of Mark Twain cigars exists, made by yet another company.  Cigars International sells them on the internet:

The modern Mark Twain Cigar

The modern Mark Twain Cigar – image from Cigars International

Silky smooth 50-54 ring Churchills for 3 bucks.

If I cannot smoke in heaven, then I shall not go.

​In addition to being a true American treasure, Mark Twain was rarely seen sans cigar. The man’s list of positive attributes didn’t stop there – humanitarian, novelist, humorist, scholar, plus world class jump roper and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master. Just kidding about that part. Mark Twain cigars also happen to bring an extensive list of positive attributes to the table. All smooth and mild, all tasty, all extremely affordable, all monster Churchill sizes ranging from 7”x50 to 8”x54. Draped in a silky Connecticut shade wrapper and generously filled with an aged blend of Nicaraguan long-fillers, Mark Twain delivers a flavorful, mild to medium-bodied experience. Notes of oak, cream, white pepper add to a rich tobacco core, completing a mellow but eventful 60+ minutes of your time.

For 3 bucks, these big boom sticks are the ultimate value-priced handmades.

“Boom sticks?”

Now, on to track down what kind of whiskey he preferred . . .

More:

Mark Twain Cigar Sign. Advertising sign with slogan, “Mark Twain: Known to Everyone—Liked by All.” Pennsylvania: Wolf Bros., ca. 1913-1930. [zoom]  No evidence links Clemens to the production of Mark Twain Cigars, but his fame and popularity were used to market this product. This advertisement contains some “stretchers” as Huck Finn would have called them. Under the phrase “Known to Everyone - Liked by All” the Wolf Brothers have added their copyright statement, but the phrase was coined by the author and appeared on handbills to promote Mark Twain lectures in the 1880s. The artwork used for the portrait was based on a photograph taken by Napoleon Sarony in 1893, a photograph that Clemens was not particularly fond of and which he called that “damned old libel.” The sign also contains a script-like autograph that was not Mark Twain’s signature.  From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Caption from the Cornell Library exhibit: Mark Twain Cigar Sign. Advertising sign with slogan, “Mark Twain: Known to Everyone—Liked by All.” Pennsylvania: Wolf Bros., ca. 1913-1930. No evidence links Clemens to the production of Mark Twain Cigars, but his fame and popularity were used to market this product. This advertisement contains some “stretchers” as Huck Finn would have called them. Under the phrase “Known to Everyone – Liked by All” the Wolf Brothers have added their copyright statement, but the phrase was coined by the author and appeared on handbills to promote Mark Twain lectures in the 1880s. The artwork used for the portrait was based on a photograph taken by Napoleon Sarony in 1893, a photograph that Clemens was not particularly fond of and which he called that “damned old libel.” The sign also contains a script-like autograph that was not Mark Twain’s signature. From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane


Whiskey and Cigar Day, November 30, 2013: We toast Mark Twain’s and Winston Churchill’s births

November 30, 2013

Mark Twain, afloat

Mark Twain aboard a ship, on his way to Hawaii. Young Samuel Clemens apprenticed to be a Mississippi river boat pilot, and held a fascination for water-going vessels his entire life. His pilot years are documented, and analyzed, in Life on the Mississippi.
This photo of Twain remains one of my favorites.

November 30 is the birthday of Mark Twain (1835), and Winston Churchill (1874).

This is the traditional Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub post to remind you. Both were lovers of good whiskey, and good cigars. Surely they would have toasted themselves with a drink and a smoke.

Even if we don’t, we can pretend we did.

In 2013, we have the benefit of having had a couple of years to digest Twain’s Autobiography, as we await our copies of Volume II, and we have the benefit of new scholarship and year to read a great book on Churchill, William Manchester’s and Paul Reid’s The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965.

Twain had a comment on the Texas Education Agency and State Board of Education:

In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.

Following the Equator; Pudd’nhead Wilson‘s New Calendar

The Nobel literature committees were slow; Twain did not win a Nobel in Literature; he died in 1910. Churchill did win, in 1953.

Both men were aficionados of good whiskey and good cigars. Both men suffered from depression in old age.

Both men made a living writing, early in their careers as newspaper correspondents. One waged wars of a kind the other campaigned against. Both were sustained by their hope for the human race, against overwhelming evidence that such hope was sadly misplaced.

churchill-time-cover-man-of-the-year-1941.jpg

Winston S. Churchill, Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1941, copyright 1941 by Time Magazine. Churchill’s career was built much on his work as First Lord of the Admiralty, a position he took in 1911.  While he was the goat of the Battle of the Dardanelles (and had to resign as a result), his earlier work to switch Britain’s Navy to oil power from coal, and to use airplanes in combat, kept the British Navy as an important and modern military organization through World War II.

Both endured fantastic failures that would have killed other people, and both rebounded.

Each possessed a great facility with words, and wit, and frequently said or wrote things that people like to remember and repeat again.

Both of them rank near the top of the list of people to whom almost any quote will be attributed if the quote is witty and the speaker can’t remember, or doesn’t know, who actually said it.

Both men are worth study. And wouldn’t you really love to have had them over to dinner?

Twain, on prisons versus education:

Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.” – Speech, November 23, 1900

Churchill on the evil men and nations do:

“No One Would Do Such Things”

“So now the Admiralty wireless whispers through the ether to the tall masts of ships, and captains pace their decks absorbed in thought. It is nothing. It is less than nothing. It is too foolish, too fantastic to be thought of in the twentieth century. Or is it fire and murder leaping out of the darkness at our throats, torpedoes ripping the bellies of half-awakened ships, a sunrise on a vanished naval supremacy, and an island well-guarded hitherto, at last defenceless? No, it is nothing. No one would do such things. Civilization has climbed above such perils. The interdependence of nations in trade and traffic, the sense of public law, the Hague Convention, Liberal principles, the Labour Party, high finance, Christian charity, common sense have rendered such nightmares impossible. Are you quite sure? It would be a pity to be wrong. Such a mistake could only be made once—once for all.”

—1923, recalling the possibility of war between France and Germany after the Agadir Crisis of 1911, in The World Crisis,vol. 1, 1911-1914, pp. 48-49. (Obviously, and sadly, Churchill was wrong — twice wrong.)

Image of Twain aboard ship – origin unknown. Image of Winston S. Churchill, Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1941, copyright 1941 by Time Magazine.

More on Mark Twain

More on Winston Churchill

Orson Welles, with Dick Cavett, on Churchill, his wit, humor and grace (tip of the old scrub brush to the Churchill Centre):

Yeah, mostly this is an encore post from past years.

More, contemporary reports from 2012:

And in 2013:

Should you fly your flag today?  Congress doesn’t list this dual birthday as an event for flying the U.S. flag.  But you’re welcome to fly the flag any day.  Go ahead, if you want to.


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