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The Treasure Hunt

by Kay Chambers

Cigar label collecting recently took us on a treasure hunt throughout Tennessee and Kentucky. Having fruitlessly searched through literally hundreds of shops for labels, I again considered the paradox of this collection. The availability of labels from sources other than the major wholesalers is slim and shopping with the big dealers where one can quickly and easily build a collection reduces the thrill of the search. However, we were fortunate to experience some enriching encounters.

We accidentally ran into the Museum of Tobacco Art and History in downtown Nashville, Tennessee and were welcomed by the Curator, David Wright. David is extremely hospitable and helpful. He personally escorted us on a tour of the museum and extended an invitation to the cigar label collectors to visit. The museum was founded to reflect the role of tobacco in the economic and social development of the United States and other countries around the world. It is a public service of the United States Tobacco Manufacturing Company Inc.

The museum’s collection traces the history of tobacco through art and antiques. Cigar labels are not forgotten, however very few were on display. Madame Butterfly was the most impressive. The gift shop features several framed reproduced labels including Round Up priced at $12.95 each. Tony Hyman’s book is available at $15.00 and there are a few remaining copies of Joe Davidson’s book priced at $69.95.

Visiting this museum certainly encourages crossover collecting. The exhibit of pipe tampers is worth the trip alone. I am certain many of us have passed by figural tampers thinking they were mini statues that would not stand straight. The most intriguing item on display was the smoking chair, circa 1890. And again, I suspect some of us have passed by these delightful little Victorian chairs not realizing the back houses a secret compartment to hold cigars and other smoking paraphernalia. The smoker would don his elaborately embroidered smoking jacket and hat (usually a handworked gift of love from wife, mother or sweetheart) and then straddle the chair, extract the cigar or pipe from the compartment and finally relax with his arms on the back while enjoying his smoke!

For those of you who would like more information about the museum or gift shop, I encourage you to contact David Wright, Curator, at the Museum of Tobacco Art and History, 800 Harrison Street, Nashville, TN 37203

Copyright © 1997 The Cigar-Label Gazette, P.O. Box 3, Lake Forest, CA 92630

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