Station: [17] Historic Factory Floor

Cigar production – the essential purpose of the factory. These historical photographs convey a good sense of what happened on the different floors of the factory. Female workers sat cheek by jowl, rolling cigars.

In the centre aisle, there’d often be a reader, recounting news from around the world. For people living in rural areas, access to such information was often not a given. That’s why women working in the cigar factories were regarded as well informed. The tobacco industry was also quicker than other industrial sectors to adopt social changes, such as unionisation.

A cigar was made in two stages. First, the woman responsible for the binder wrapped the outer tobacco leaf around the filler made of shredded tobacco. From the 20th century onwards, she had a small device to help her – you can see it on the historical work tables.  By operating a foot pedal, the women were able to move the material and the roller to wrap the binder around the filler. 

The wrapper is what decides the quality of the cigar and is usually a leaf of Sumatran or Brazilian tobacco. The workers rolled this leaf in a spiral motion around the pressed cylinder made of binder and filler and then sealed it with adhesive. Achieving the rounded ends of the cigar took special skill.

There are two different ways of making cigars. For short fillers, the filler consists of shredded tobacco. The superior quality long fillers contain rolled up, whole tobacco leaves.

There are also differences in the shape of the head – the end which the smoker draws on. Cigars have a rounded head. However, the cheroot is produced as a long tobacco cylinder and only later cut into two or three pieces. That makes it a lot cheaper than a cigar.

Our next stop is on the ground floor. But first, you might want to take a look at the selection of ancient pipes, snuff boxes and bottles, from our extensive collection.

All depictions: © Oberrheinisches Tabakmuseum Mahlberg