Florida: Cigar-making

Child Labor in the American South: Florida: Cigar-Making

Thomas Christy 

                 Cigar factories were and still are big business in Florida. Today you will find regular workers working in them but at the end of the 19th century and during the first 20 or so years in the 20th century there were mass amounts of child labor being used in the factories. Child Labor was cheap, you could make them work long hours, and the children usually were not able to cause problems which made them perfect to use. The photos that I analyzed seem to show the same theme that children were used in these cigar factories which were never in very good condition and spent long hours doing labor mainly with their hands. It wasn't just men as both young woman and immigrants were also apart of the cigar factory workforce. They were treated the same as the young boys and worked in the same conditions.
                  The 1st of the pictures that I have analyzed is entitled young cigar makers in Englehardt & Co. This picture was taken in January of 1909, which was time when child labor was still quite rampant and very few inquests into child labor, especially the cigar making industry could be found. Englehardt & Co was a German based company. The little information that I was able to find on them suggested that they owned more then just a cigar factory. The kids in this picture appear to be very young. According to the caption the young workers were under 14 but I would say that they were at most 10 or 11 years old. These young boys would work long hours probably 12 or 13-hour shifts. The amount of children that would be employed at any one time depended on business. If business was slack then there would not be as many employed. Their outfits appear common for the time as it is the same throughout all the pictures that I am looking at. Lastly the photo shows these three young boys smoking cigars. By looking at all my pictures I can surmise that it was common for these young workers to smoke. This would only add to the unhealthy situation that these youngsters had forced upon them.
                      The 2nd of my photos that I anaylzed is entitled "some of the boys in a school factory" In the photo you see a row of young boys and the boys are working on the methods they are taught in these school factories. These "school factories" are places that people both young children and adults learn how to make cigars so they are able to work in the cigar factories. The student would learn all that was needed to be able to then work in the cigar factories. I should be noted that these students in these schools would actually be creating cigars that would later be sold to the public. According to the caption they would "pay to be permitted to work". This was true because the children of these "school factories" would learn their trade and while working and creating product would not be paid any wages and were working in order for the right to be able to work in the factory. The boys would be taught other subjects during this time as well. These young boys would be taught by a lector. This lector would read different subjects such as
                        Immigrants were a big amount of those who were hired in these cigar factories. The pictures I looked at show that a great number of those working in these school factories were indeed immigrants. In another picture that I came across is entitled "school cigar factory" you see a entire group or class of students working in a school factory named La Flora de Pedro Casellas factory. A lot of the class appears to be young children and also many of them appear to be immigrants. Immigrants would have been far cheaper to be employ so you can understand why the owners would want to employ them. This was part of a larger sceniero of the time as many Cuban immigrants would be coming tot he country and would likely take any job they can get there hands with not caring about pay or working conditions. It also was the case about location that made it far easier to employee immigrants especially Cubans. In southern Florida there were and still is many cigar factories. Tampa Florida is considered to be the cigar capital of the world. I bring this up because it would have been very easy for employees to find many immigrants, including children because a lot of Cuban refugees would have come up thru Tampa in order to get a better life.
                          The 3rd of the photos that I viewed is entitled "A Tampa Adolescent Cigar maker" The title of this picture is misleading because it fails to mention in the title that workers in the picture are in fact female. According to the caption it says that many beautiful girl and woman in the business. This photo appears to be unique at least to me because it is the only photo that I have seen where it shows females working in the cigar factories. it should be noted that females may work in the same cigar factories as men and also perform the same tasks as men but they were most certainly not treated the same as men. In general their pay was far less then men and there working conditions were also far worse then factories where it was a all male workforce. Investigating in factories where woman were employed found that the factories were universally dusty, poorly ventilated, and crowded (COOPER, 252). It would have been no different for young female child workers. Employers would have found that it was very beneficial to employee young woman. They were known to not cause as many problems, they tended to be easier to work with and also and this is a very telling fact they tended to not try to unionize as that was something that many employers feared. It was the case in some areas that once woman were given the opportunity to work in the cigar factory they accelerated to the point where they were a high percentage of the work force and it was said by some that they did better then men did (PEREZ. 74).
                         The 4th of the photos that I analyze is entitled "one of the smallest apprentices I found" In the photo we see a young boy probably not older then 8 or 9 working on making a cigar. The boy is using his hands in order create the cigar and this was common to be using your bare hands. Young child were particully well suited for this type of work as their small hands made it better to properly make the cigar. A worker would receive his pad of wrappers, which are the outer wrapping of the cigar, or the skin. He would usually get about 25 at a time. He would then go to the filler bin, which is where the contents of the cigar is kept, meaning the tobacco mixture. He has very little in the way of tools. He gets a board that he uses to roll the cigars. He gets a knife called a Chaveta and a gauge used to measure the length of the cigar he is working on. He uses his hands for most of the process. He first cuts the cigar to its proper length, then uses his hands and form the filler into proper bundles, which are then placed into the wrappings. Then the worker would use the special board to roll the cigar up and seal it together (PEREZ, 67). This was a lengthy process and the young children (much like the one in the picture) would spend long hours doing this day after day. I can only imagine the type of health problems this would bring about especially with young children.
                         The final picture that I analyzed in entitled "a few of the workers at the P. San Martin Cigar Co." the picture shows young boys standing around what appears to be there work area of a typical cigar factory. These young boys appear to be fairly young boys who have finished there time at a school factory that I discussed earlier. The photo caption talks about how a lot of young children who made it thru the cigar factory schools are then hired to work in the cigar factories but they pay them very little if anything and they make them work very long hours. I could find very little information about the P San Martin Cigar Co. There were many, many cigar factories in the Tampa, Florida. So one particular factory maybe not be noticed or be given particlar attention. It is fairly safe to say that most, if not all of the cigar factories in the area probably used the very same hiring and working tactics.
                              The use of child labor in Florida in cigar factories was obviously wide spread during the early 20th century. They were cheap to use and far less trouble to employee. Childs small hands were very useful for being able to create cigar.  Young woman were also widely used in cigar factory and some argued that young woman were better at it then young men. However the factory conditions were usually worse for woman then were for men. Also immigrants were also used widespread in cigar factories and would be used for the same reason as the children. Children would be put thru cigar school factories in which they would learn the trade and also be taught certain other subjects. When they finished at the school they would be hired to a factory but would not be paid much at all. Lastly the conditions of the factories were usually harmful to  the child and some young children would even smoke the cigars that they made.