Had not Wheeling arranged to go down to history as the Nail City, she certainly ought to be known to posterity as Stogietown. For to-day it is safe to assume that Wheeling stogies are puffed in nearly every state in the Union. Careful investigation goes to show that so early as 1820-5 one Joseph Kirk took the initiative here in the production of these consoling luxuries, which were then popular under the more expressive and correct title of cheap cigars. For a while he monopolised the field, until a growing demand inspired a competitor to "arise in all his might" (?) named McGuiness, followed by one Beard, who was assisted by his daughters. These pioneer stogyites, it must be remembered, only operated on a very limited scale, but in or about 1830, Thomas Connard came to the front as a manufacturer on a larger scale -- subsequently taking as a partner Robert Gibson, about when, we also find, other competitors enter the arena of stogie making to a lively tune, including Messrs. Marsh, Myers, &c. until their names became, as they are to-day, legion. Having thus fathomed the local parentage of these famous smokes, next let us endeavor to fathom the reason for the birth of the stogies in this immediate locality.
Well, originally the "popular," that is to say, the cheaper, cigars were imported to this country from Germany, being known to the trade as the Pfalzer cigar -- from the title of the German district from whence they came. It was a cigar, only by name, but bore a very unseemly comparison with the stogie of to-day. They cost from $4.00 to $5.50 per one thousand in those palmy days of no tax. In Wheeling, at that time, as at present, the working classes formed a major proportion of the population, and then, as now, the working man passed his evenings about the tobacco and cigar stores. Limited means and a desire to economize, gave rise to a demand for cheaper smokes and an anxiety on the part of tobacconists to supply the coveted article. It was this demand brought forth the original stogie, that to the number of probably 150,000 per day issues from Wheeling's factories to cheer the millions who find solace and comfort in cremating them. The term "stogie," in Yankeedom, applies to the cheaper makes of boots, and in cigars has been adopted as the title of the popular cheaper make of smokes. To the trade they are known and billed as "stogas," and in the vernacular "stogie" is the accepted title. In Pittsburgh, however, the "stogie" is known as a "toby." As to "tips," the term is more popular with consumers than manufacturers, inasmuch as tipped cigars implies suspicion of fraud and imposition. It is tipped toward the outer end with a higher priced tobacco, and the last stage of that cigar is altogether worse than the first. Now, when the stogie business made itself felt in Wheeling, Mr. William Lindsey, of Louisville, forseeing the possibilities of the new born cigar, gave his attention to the selection and supplying of the best tobacco for the making of stogies. When the stogie of 1848 made its appearance, the cheapest American cigar was the Boston cheroot, at $3.50 to $4.00 per thousand. They were made of shorts or scraps, and not of long stock, as the stogie, and poor affairs, indeed, were the Boston cheroots. the newly arrived stogie was not much of an improvement, but then its price, $1.87 to $2.00 per thousand, made it spring into favor, and the days of Pfalzer's and Boston cheroots were gone forever. The stogie business grew with Wheeling's growth, and the cigar factories, drawing their supplies from the rich plantations of Kentucky and Ohio, multiplied rapidly, until the Nail City to-day makes 26,925,000 cigars per year, and gives happiness (at four for five cents) to countless thousands.
Pittsburgh takes the largest quantity of stogies, and then follow the cities of Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, etc. As a general thing the East takes stories, gingerly. They are composed of tobacco too strong for the Eastern smoker. But from the Alleghany to the Rocky mountains the cry is still for stogies. As time rolled on and popular taste grew more critical, even in the matter of cheap cigars, stogies underwent a reformation. The stogie of to-day contains much better stock than the lower priced cigars of Pennsylvania and other states. Within the past eight years better stock has been demanded in stogies. I found that out by personal canvass of the western markets. During the past eight years the general quality of the stogie advanced, and the men in my employ, in a like manner, have gradually learned to make a cigar fully up to the present rigid requirements of the trade.
Service provided by the staff of the Ohio County Public Library in partnership with and partially funded by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.