The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Pictures courtesy of Don Thornton
        When cigar boxes were legislated in 1863, the initial rules regarding their use and manufacture were stringent, especially under the law of 1865 which limited contents to 25, 50, 100, 250 or 500 cigars. At first, only glass and wood boxes were permitted, but in 1870 tin boxes were allowed, and in 1878 the laws were liberalized permitting novelty packaging. Cigar makers, wholesalers, retailers and customers all believed they could design a better, more attractive, or more useful cigar box. Here, with little comment, are a decade and a half’s worth of their good and not so good ideas.
    These patent illustrations are courtesy of Don Thornton, the top author - authority in the country on egg beaters. While researching egg beater patents Don thoughtfully and graciously offered to copy cigar related patents as he came across them. You can see these today because he carried through on his offer.  Don’s eggbeater books are interesting for all and a must for dealers and egg beater collectors.
Box Patents
A National Cigar Museum Exhibit
(c) Tony Hyman
1870. Cardboard box covered with thin layer of Spanish cedar. Ends perforated to allow moisture
to escape from cigars.
1870. Box made of “common wood” covered with thin veneer. Note overall lid and bottom. Ultimately a high percentage of boxes were made this way.
1870.  Wood and cardboard with metal corners.
1870.  Box designed to prevent fraud by allowing customers and Federal tax officials to count the number of cigars in the box. Tax stamp to be applied over one of the hooks.
1871.  Application of the tax stamp across added slat C and through the slot at bottom of the lid permits the box to be opened for inspection without breaking the tax stamp. Very expensive and cumbersome customer assurance.  [5206]
1872.  Top and two ends are made of wood. Front, bottom and back are formed from a single sheet of “thick paper, termed paper-board” to which paper printed to look like wood is glued. This was clever
and actually made commercially. [5207]
1872  Cardboard box that “can be opened at the top or bottom for the purpose of packing, and when the same is filled, can be securely and quickly closed and fastened for transportation.”
1872.  A new latch and a complex system using muslin, cotton, and “tar board” to brace a
cigar box so it won’t warp.
1872.  “The chief object of my invention is to provide better means than have heretofore been provided for packing cigars in small bundles.” Similar boxes were used in the 1880’s and again today.
1873.  Method of opening a box to inspect contents without breaking the revenue stamp. Fraudulent contents were an obvious concern with buyers.
1873.  Inventor  uses wood to strengthen
a cardboard box.
1877.  Double lid, inside one of glass, permits viewing of the cigars. A similar box was used
and is illustrated in the NCM glass exhibit.
1877.  Insets the lid by beveling the sides and top. Design used by BROMO SELTZER and at least
one other brand of cigars.
1877.  Drop front box with metal swing latch corners was manufactured and used. Retailers didn’t
like the design.
1877.  Box with built-in cigar cutter.
1877.  Mix of wood, tin and cardboard to improve on the tin box by allowing the cigars to dry, providing a surface for the brand and ID, for removing the “objectionable appearance of sheet tin boxes,” and creating a box reusable when empty. [5217]
1877.  Complicated two level compartmentalized double-hinged lid box, designed too permit inspection of contents.
1877.  Bottle-shaped cigar box “made of any suitable material” with cigars stacked in 3 tiers. In the head of each cigar is a pin, the withdrawal of which opens the draft channel for smoking. The tier “improves drying” of the cigars.  [5219]
1877.  Overly complicated impractical design revents fraudulently reusing the box by making
it impossible to remove the next row of cigars without destroying the box.
1878.  Double lidded box permits two colors of cigars, or other choice. Lids support each other
in upright position. You can see this box in the
NCM display of novelty game-related boxes.
1878.  Spring loaded pivoting box to hold cigars,
cigarettes or matches.
1878.  Movable partition to keep cigars from rattling around, especially in boxes carried by salesmen.
1878.  This design exposes the ends of the cigars for quality inspection.
1878.  Six-sided cigar box to facilitate packing of cigars in space-saving triangular bundles. Two glass inserts permit viewing of cigars. Ads say this went into manufacture. The NCM would like to find one.
1879.  Boxes of 100 are deep, so it is difficult to see the bottom 20 or so cigars. This, in effect, builds two boxes of 50 bottom to bottom, permitting the box to be turned upside down when half empty. This box
went into production and is on exhibit.  [5226]
1879.  Spring hinge and clasp to hold the lid upright “to prevent strain upon the hinge.”
1879.  Doublle-hinged lid that folds under the box to save space in the showcase.
1879.  “...a cigar box having an inclined glass top secured within the hinged frame, said box being provided with a series of perforations, and short transverse portions and vertical pieces arranged in pyramidal form in combination with the receptacle, sponge and rear door...” Egad. [5230]
1879.  “The object of the invention is to devise a cigar-box that will at all times appear full even though there may be only a single layer therein.”
1879.  A fairly popular latch used on nailed wood boxes during the 1880’s and 1890’s. Note the standard NWH hinges. See the NCM exhibit of
hinges and latches.
1879.  Drop front permits inspection of second row of cigars.
1880.  Device which, in effect, nails the cigars into the box in such a way as to prevent refilling or removing cigars without destroying the stamp.
1880.  Ventilated box permits shipping moist green cigars without molding.
1881.  Box requiring trapezoidal bundles
“for maximum display.”
1881.  Box unfolds to offer choice of three
different color cigars. NCM has one of
these on display under the brand
1882.  Popular catch used on nailed wood boxes during the late 19th century. Can be seen in the NCM exhibit of box hardware.
1882.  Unusual method of attaching a lid to save space yet display the brand name.
1882.  Lid removable to permit pre-packed cigars to have custom labels added at the last minute.
1883.  Version of inset (drop-in) lid that is more expensive to make because it is difficult to cut
and manufacture.
1884.  Odd (is this really needed?) device for holding and serving from two cigar boxes.