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Ybor City Museum

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One hundred years ago, Tampa's main industry was making hand-rolled cigars. This year the last cigar factory closed down in Tampa, putting an end to the industry.

Ybor City was the center of the cigar industry, and you can visit the Ybor City Museum to learn about this multi-ethnic city. It is housed in a former bakery.

The cigar workers came from not only Cuban backgrounds, but also Spanish, Italian, Polish, European Jews, and many others. So Ybor City quickly became a multi-ethnic city. One of the big draws working for the cigar industry, was that for $450 you could buy a factory worker's house. It looks pretty much like a late victorian pre-fab house. Here are a few surviving examples. The house on the left actually has surviving cedar shingles from the 1890s. In 1908, a devastating fire in town burn down hundreds of houses, and the state passed a law after that, that houses had to have tin roofs instead of wood.

Cuba was always unstable, with slave riots in the 1830s, and a terrible civil war in 1867 that caused thousands to flee to south Florida. So by the time of the Spanish American War in 1898, Ybor City became a hotbed for political demonstrations and freedom movements.

Here you can see the worker's tables in a cigar factory. Hand-rolled cigars were in danger of being replaced by machines, and eventually they were, but there was a demand for good quality hand-rolled ones.

But the industry went down hill in the 1930s, as cigars were replaced by cigarettes.

When the industry left town, the mob came in and the main industry became organized crime, until the city cleaned it out in the 1980s. If you go to the Tampa Bay History Center, you can see more items from Ybor City, like this set of "Bolito" balls, an early form of lottery, and this guitar made out of a cigar box. (I had to get a photo of that.)

Tobacco was from the western hemisphere and the first Europeans who arrived found the Native people smoking it for ceremonial uses. I don't smoke myself, but consider it a unique American part of history.
Current Location:
the hammock
Current Mood:
complacent complacent
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