M922.214.171.124-2 | Cigar mould
1900-1920, 20th century
6.5 x 33 x 12 cm
Gift of Air Canada
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Mould (6)
Keys to History
In the second half of the nineteenth century, moulds were introduced into cigar manufacturing. For certain companies, however, nothing could compare with a cigar made entirely by hand. Therefore, mould-based production continued to co-exist with hand manufacturing.
To make a cigar using a mould, the cigar maker placed the "bunches" of tobacco (the inner part of the cigar) into the deep grooves carved in one of the two pieces of wood making up the mould. These two parts were then put together and the mould was put under a press to shape the "bunches".
Moulds transformed the division of labour in cigar manufacturing. Some of the tasks became easier, which meant that less qualified workers, such as young boys and girls, could be hired. Edmond Gauthier, a 15-year-old cigar maker, was one of them. When asked by the Royal Commission on Relations of Labour and Capital in Canada if he was able to make a cigar from start to finish, he stated: "I can do it from the mould, but I was never shown to do it by hand." Before 1871, in Montreal, 40% of the cigar industry's labour was made up of children under the age of 16, a reality that slowly changed with children being replaced by female employees over 16.
Making a cigar using a mould required fewer skills than doing it entirely by hand. However, the person had to know the right quantity of tobacco leaves to use and how to use the press correctly.
In the late nineteenth century, the young workers in some cigar companies sometimes suffered physical abuse and had to pay all sorts of fines. Charles Weir, an 18-year old who had worked in a cigar company from the age of 13, for example, told the Royal Commission on Relations of Labour and Capital in Canada that a supervisor had hit him on the wrist with a cigar mould.
To make good cigars, the cigar maker had to leave the tobacco bunches inside the mould for a specific period of time. If they were left too long, that is longer than 20 minutes, the cigars could be too dry. Indeed, moulds caused the tobacco leaves to lose their humidity.
Employees usually worked in teams using moulds to make cigars. In general, one or two "rollers", in charge of rolling the tobacco leaves, were teamed up with an employee who shaped the bunches.