President's Day Cigars

In the annals of American history, the aroma of cigar smoke has often mingled with the corridors of power, tracing back to the nation's earliest days.On this Presidents Day, let’s take a look at the mark that cigars have left on the presidential landscape.

James Madison, the fourth president, cultivated a taste for 'seegars,' reflecting his Virginian roots and tobacco-growing heritage. Andrew Jackson, the seventh president, elevated the cigar experience by pairing it with coffee, a habit he cherished (and potentially invented) alongside his wife Rachel on their Nashville veranda.

Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president, epitomized the cigar aficionado, reportedly consuming up to 20 cigars daily, even during the tumult of the Civil War. Grant's affinity for cigars continued into his presidency, where he often retreated to the Willard Hotel for a smoke, earning him the label of the era's first "lobbyist."

Chester Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, and William McKinley, presidents 21, 23, and 25 respectively, each savored cigars in their own right. McKinley, in particular, indulged intensely, though discreetly, fostering a passion that persisted until his assassination in 1901.

Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt was number 26. As a young boy, he was forced by his father to drink coffee and smoke cigars despite having asthma. Reports about Roosevelt’s smoking cigars as an adult are in conflict. Some say he gave it up and others have him smoking at least one Cuban cigar a day. The robust and rotund 27th president, William Howard Taft, didn’t mind being seen with a cigar, nor did Warren G. Harding, number 29, who relaxed on the golf course with his stogie. The tougher the job got, the more Harding smoked.

Calvin Coolidge, president number 30, often started his day with a Cuban cigar, a big one about a foot-long. By noon, Coolidge had smoked as many as three of these ‘supercoronas.’ After breakfast meetings with members of Congress, Coolidge would hand out cigars and light up, according to his biographer, Duff Gilfond, who reported that Coolidge often used cigars as a prop or a weapon to influence people and conversations. Coolidge, ‘smoked the best’ Havana cigars, some costing up to 75-cents each, but rarely paid for them. He received them as gifts. 

Coolidge was followed in the White House by Herbert Hoover, an avid cigar smoker who also was reputed to have smoked up to 20 cigars a day. Hoover smoked strong cigars all the time, reported the White House usher. Several other ‘leaders of the free world’ are known to have smoked cigars, with few details recorded. They were John Tyler, number 10; Millard Fillmore, 13; Franklin Pierce, 14; James Buchanan, 15; Andrew Johnson, 17; and Rutherford B. Hayes, 19.

President Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th president, would enjoy a cigar and a drink after White House parties. Ike’s successor, John F. Kennedy, is the modern-day president most directly associated with cigars and with an infamous policy decision that affected which cigars we enjoy today.

JFK favored the Cuban H. Upmann Petit Corona and, as a young man, shared cigars with his father, Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy. Once in the White House, President Kennedy saw the Cuban crisis land on his desk. Among the moves he made, Kennedy signed the Cuban trade embargo, but not before directing his press secretary, Pierre Salinger (also a cigar lover), to go out and acquire as many Cuban cigars as possible. Salinger returned with an estimated 1,200 cigars. Kennedy then signed the embargo.

Richard Nixon's era marked the twilight of open cigar indulgence in the White House, signaling a shift in societal norms. Bill Clinton's tenure, while marked by controversy, also witnessed the banishment of smoking from the presidential mansion. 

Finally, George W. Bush, mindful of changing perceptions, tempered his public displays of cigar consumption, signaling the evolving attitude towards smoking in modern America.

Celebrate this President's day in true Presidential style with us here at Ralph's Cigars. Enjoy the history and power of the stogie-smoking men given the hardest job on earth. 

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