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La Crosse County Historical Society discovers, collects, preserves, and shares the history of La Crosse County, Wisconsin.

Object Record

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Object Name Box, Cigar
Catalog Number 2015.fic.543
Description Pamperin Cigar Co. Black Rose Smokers cardboard cigar box. The top of the cigar box reads "Black Rose Smokers". The print on the underside of the coveris of a scantily dressed woman of the late 19th century surrounded by flowers. The print is labled as "Title and design registered by John Pamperin, 1884."
Collection La Crosse County Historical Society Collection
Year Range from 1898
Year Range to 1950
Material Paper
Dimensions H-1.5 W-5.5 L-8.5 inches
Length (in) 8.5
Height (in) 1.5
Width (in) 5.5
Place of Origin La Crosse, WI
Search Terms Cigar
Pamperin Cigar Company
Featured in Things that Matter
Notes This cigar box was made by the Pamperin Cigar Company. John Pamperin, a native of Germany, was the original owner of the company. John started his business in 1866 and as his business trade grew so did his cliental and he was forced to move his business location a number of times to accommodate for his ever-increasing trade. Pamperin ended up on 221-223 Main Street in 1886 when he joined with Mr. Eugene Wiggenhorn to form the famous Pamperin &Wiggenhorn Cigar Company. On the market well over 20 years by 1890, Belle of La Crosse, La Roma, Acorn and Black Rose, the brand of cigars that were sold in this box, were some of Mr. Pamperin's most popular cigar brands. They sold for five cents each. The two families continued their business partnership together onto the next generation, teaching their sons. However, the Pamperins and Wiggenhorns ceased their partnership in 1904. John Pamperin and his sons started their own company in 1905 but continued to manufacture under the Pamperin Cigars name. In 1975 Pamperin Cigar was the last tobacco company in the city.

Featured in Things that Matter

"Before cigarettes and chewing tobacco became popular, cigar smoking was a fashionable men’s custom that was enjoyed in many settings: during recreation, business and as an after-dinner activity.

The Black Rose Pamperin cigar box is a classic memento of La Crosse from the turn of the 20th century. Distinctly marketed toward men, the half-nude, Greek Goddess-inspired woman on the box was an important part of the attraction of Black Rose cigars. These cigars were even featured on the Pamperin float in the 1898 Fourth of July parade.

The Pamperin Cigar Co., like its predecessor, Pamperin and Wiggenhorn, was one of the largest producers of cigars in La Crosse and employed more than 300 people at its peak.

Marjorie Collins purchased the company from Franklin J. Pamperin, grandson of the founder, in 1974. She recalls him telling her that at one time the company employed 19 salesmen, who were called “drummers.” The drummers would board trains and fanned out all over the Midwest and the Dakotas, selling Pamperin tobacco products.

Pamperin bought and processed tobacco from regional tobacco farms, especially from the Viroqua area, which had a reputation for high-quality tobacco.

Eventually, the company sold only chewing tobacco, as the popularity of cigars began to diminish. By the time Collins owned the business, many of the company’s customers were older men who, in their youth, had gotten leaf trimmings from the factory, called schnitzel, (or “bits”) for free, which they would then chew. Pamperin continued to fill orders for these products until the company closed in 1987."

This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune.
Title: Pamperin 'Black Rose' Cigar Box
Author: Mercedes Fowler
Publish Date: January 23, 2016