The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.
If one of the items featured brings back some memories or brings up a question, please contact the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or email@example.com to share your memory or get an answer to your question.
By Karen Livsey
An early 1900s cigar box from Jamestown. It held cigars named for Joseph Ellicott.
A small, seemingly insignificant item was resting on a shelf in the storeroom of the Fenton History Center. As my gaze passed over it, I realized there was a familiar face looking back at me from the top of the item. The face was that of Joseph Ellicott, who was, among other things, the resident agent of the Holland Land Company from 1801 to 1826.
The town of Ellicott was named for him in 1812.
Joseph Ellicott's portrait was on a cigar box, and the question is why was his portrait wrapped over the top and end of a wooden cigar box? This cigar box, according to the paper sales tax seal that wrapped around the box, held 50 cigars. The top of the box had imprinted in it a decorative stamp with the word Ellicott in the middle.
The last T was covered by the portrait. The front of the box had a "Union-made Cigars," label but the local stamp has faded to be unreadable. The bottom of the box has imprinted in it "FACTORY 648 28 DIST NY" in a circle with 50 in the center. Another paper label on the bottom of the box is "Factory No. 648, 29th Dist., State of N.Y., Jamestown, New York" and includes a notice that the manufacturers of the cigars had complied with all requirements of the law and the box was not to be reused, etc.
In large letters "ELLICOTT" was along the inside of the back of the box.
On the inside of the top of the box is the portrait of J. Ellicott and a map of the township of Ellicott in 1867. In fine print on the map is "Journal Printing Co., Engravers."
We know that there were a number of small cigar manufacturing places in Jamestown around the early 1900s. The sales tax paper included the words "Series of 1901, Act of March 2, 1901," so we know that this box of cigars was sold after that date. Factory No. 648 is not identified. But on very small print on the edge of the inside of the box just below the map and portrait we have an answer as to who the manufacturer was. There in fine print, it says: "Trade Mark Registered. H. Guenther, Jamestown, N. Y. Nov. 16, 1900."
Was the trade mark "Ellicott" or was the Trade Mark the name of the cigar maker? How long were Ellicott cigars sold? All questions that will not have a ready answer.
Henry Guenther was born in Germany in 1861. He with his family came to the United States in 1869. By 1875, the family was living in Jamestown at 71 Spring St. His father, John was a chair maker and/or a piano stringer, depending on the source of information, and Henry at the age of 14 was a cigar maker. Later Henry and his family lived at 829 Spring St., and his business address was 126 E. Second St. Henry continued making cigars until about 1915 when he became the postmaster of Jamestown.
The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County's history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.
Visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org for more information on upcoming events.
If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St., just south of the Washington Street Bridge.