The manufacture of cigars began in Reading about 1800. A box of cigars always stood on the counter of every tavern and its contents were free to all guests.
Cigar-makers generally made from 800 to 1,500 cigars a day. Several made 2,000. The prices paid were five, six and seven cents a hundred and they sold for $1.50 to $2.00 per thousand.
The total manufacture in 1840 was about 20,000 daily. The business of cigar-making increased gradually after 1847, a better quality of cigars was made, and more skilled hands came to be employed.
The prominent manufacturers of cigars from 1847 to 1875 were J. M. & G. W. Hantsch, John Maltzberger and Charles Breneiser, but their product was comparatively small. In 1869 George W. Crouse came from New York to Reading and began the business extensively in the northern part of the city beyond Bern Street. He employed 100 young girls, and was the first at Reading to employ females in this branch of industry.
Daniel W. Crouse came from Bedford, Pa. to Reading in 1875, and after having traded with George W. Hantsch, as Hantsch & Crouse, until 1880, he formed a partnership with his uncle, George W. Crouse They traded as Crouse & Co. and established a laree factory on Sixth street below Penn, where they employed over 400 hands and manufactured 10,000,000 common cigars, which they sold in all parts of the country. The partnership was dissolved in 1885, and Daniel W. Crouse removed to New York, to engage in the leaf tobacco business. He returned in 1895 and opened a factory at 45 Reed Street.
There were twenty-five manufacturers of chewing and smoking tobacco who produced altogether during 1897 about 125,000 pounds and employed about 100 persons. In March, 1898, there were 110 cigar manufacturers at Reading. The total product was 50,000,000, which yielded a revenue to the United States government exceeding $150,000. The total number of persons employed in all the factories was about 3,200.
During 1908 the number of cigars manufactured in the Reading district exceeded 120,000,000 and the revenue paid was $361,873.
During 1923 the number of cigars manufactured in the Reading district exceeded 180,000,000. The total output of five-centers was 20,000.000, while those which retailed for seven and eight cents numbered 83,000,000. The demand for still higher priced goods was almost as great, for of the ten and fifteen-cent grades there were 76,000,000 manufactured.
Cigar Factories of Reading, PA in 1898
Brossman Factory – In 1887 Harrison D. Brossman came to Reading from Douglassville and engaged in the leaf tobacco business. In 1888 he began manufacturing cigars at 224 North Eighth Street, employing 12 hands and making 800,000 a year. In 1891 he located at 210 Cedar street, and traded under the name of H. D. Brossman & Son, his son John associating with him. They employed 19 people, and produced annually over 1,000,000 cigars, which were sold in the Middle States.
Crouse Factory – Millard F. Crouse and Samuel I. Ziemer began trading as Crouse & Co. in 1895, at 128 North Tenth street. On January 1, 1898, J. Calvin Corle became a member of the firm. Employees, 75; monthly product, 300,000 cigars, which were shipped mostly throughout the Middle States.
Dibert Factory – In 1875 Samuel D. Dibert removed from Bedford, PA to Reading. He and his brother Henry S., trading as Dibert Bros., carried on a tobacco business from 1883 to 1887, and then they began manufacturing cigars. In 1893 they located their factory at Washington and Thorn streets, which they conducted in a very successful manner until January 6, 1898, employing over 100 people and making annually over 3,000,000 cigars, which were shipped to all parts of the country from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. Then Samuel D. Dibert became the sole proprietor of the plant and business.
Eshelman & Endy Factory – John J. Eshelman was engaged in manufacturing cigars at Mohnsville from 1885 to 1897, then he came to Reading and formed a partnership with Charles H. Endy, (his foreman,) trading as Eshelman, Endy & Co., and locating the factory at 137 Cedar Street. Employees, 65; monthly product, 180,000 cigars, which were forwarded mostly to customers in the Western States.
Gumpert Bros. – In 1892 Albert and Richard T. Gumpert, trading as Gumpert Bros., prominent manufacturers of cigars at Philadelphia, established a branch factory at Reading in 1891, locating at Fifth and Penn streets. They employed 175 people and produced over 7,000,000 cigars annually. Their business increasing beyond the capacity of the building, they erected a large five-story factory at Seventh and Washington streets in 1893, employing about the same number of hands, but doubling their annual product, which was shipped to all parts of the United States. Albert Gumpert died in 1893, but the firm name still continued.
Hansen Factory – In 1891, Julius G. Hansen came from New York to Reading and associated with George W. & Millard F. Crouse, trading as Geo. W. Crouse & Co., for making cigars, when they erected a brick factory at Tenth and Spring streets. On January 1, 1895, Mr. Hansen became the sole proprietor. During 1897, he employed from 125 to 150 people and produced annually over 5,000,000 cigars, which were shipped to all parts of the United States.
Hunt Factory – Frank J. Hunt started manufacturing cigars in West Reading in 1892, and in 1893, located in Reading at 636 Court Street. He employed 35 people and produced annually over 1,000,000 cigars, which were shipped to all parts of the United States.
Industrial Cigar Manunfacturing Co. – In 1878 Nicholas Glaser and George C. Frame associated together for making cigars. In 1884 they erected a large brick factory on Spruce Street above Ninth and carried on the business very extensively as Glaser, Frame & Co., forwarding their product to all parts of the United States. In 1890 Mr. Glaser died, and William J. Frame and Morris H. Millmore became the proprietors of the establishment, trading under the same name. In 1897, they employed over 200 people and made over 6,000,000 cigars In March, 1898, the Industrial Cigar Manufacturing Co. was organized with Henry S. Dibert as treasurer, who then became the owner of the business. Employees, 140; monthly production, 350,000.
Kahler Factory – Elias E. Kahler began making cigars with one cigar-maker at 310 North Fourth Street in 1895. He removed to 328 Buttonwood Street in 1896. Employees, 72; production in 1897, 3,000,000 cigars, high-grade, which were disposed of in the Eastern and Middle States.
Kline & Winters Factory – James T. Kline and John M. Winters began making cigars January 1, 1897. They employed 25 people. Product, 2,000,000 cigars, which were sold to customers in the Middle States. Factory 443 Cedar Street.
Maerz Factory – Charles Maerz carried on manufacturing cigars at New York from 1869 to 1881, employing 80 persons and producing about 2,000,000 cigars annually. Then he came to Reading, and, after superintending several factories until 1892, embarked again in the business for himself. He erected a factory at Tenth and Cherry streets in 1894. Employees, 28; total production, 1,500,000 cigars, which were shipped to customers in Pennsylvania, New York and some of the Western States.
Price & Spatz Factory – In 1890 John F. Price and John G. Spatz, of Womelsdorf, associated together for the manufacture of cigars. They employed 6 people and made 500,000 a year. In 1892 they removed their factory to Reading, when they increased their employees to 25 and production to 1,500,000. In 1897 they located in a larger building at Sixth and Cherry streets, and in that year the employees numbered from 125 to 150, and their production exceeded 5,000,000 cigars. Their cigars were shipped principally to the Western States.
Riegel Factory – John H. Riegel began making cigars at Bernville in 1871. He removed to Reading in 1882, and carried on the business successfully until 1893, when he erected a three-story brick factory at Front and Washington streets. Employees, 50; product in 1897, 30,000, which were sold principally in the Middle States, and some south and west.
Lehr Factory – George W. Lehr came from Lebanon County to Reading and in 1876 began manufacturing cigars. In 1889, he established a large factory at 912 Penn Street which was comprised of four floors, 120 x 22 1/2 feet in dimensions. 100 skilled workmen and twenty girls were kept employed. “Hold Up!” was one of the leading brands of 5 cent cigars. Employees, 50; product over 1,000,000 cigars, which were shipped to different parts of the country.
Yocum Bros. – William H. Yocum began making cigars at Stouchsburg in 1881, and remained there until 1885, increasing his business from employing one person to 60. In 1884 he purchased the business of Glaser & Lehr at Reading and conducted it for nearly a year, employing 100 peoples. January 1, 1885, his brother, James W., became a partner, and thence they traded as Yocum Bros. Their rapidly increasing business obliged them to move their factory three times, establishing it finally at Seventh and Walnut streets in 1893, when they erected a large four-story brick building. They employed 350 persons. Their production in 1897 was 15,000,000 cigars, all high-grade, which were sold through wholesale houses in all parts of the United States.
In 1956, Y-B Cigar, which stands for Yocum Brothers, was purchased by DWG Cigar Corporation (later changed to simply DWG Corp). With the weakening of the cigar market due to medical advisories, many smokers switched to cigarettes, which were then believed to be safer. DWG then streamlined cigar operations and began looking for other businesses that might suit DWG’s wholesale and distribution strength. DWG sold or closed their remaining cigar operations in 1966 and became more of a holding company owning interests in an array of diverse businesses. The current Wendy’s/Arby’s Group – the third largest fast food franchise and food service group – traces its linage to DWG.