New York Daily Photo Analytics

Friday, March 23, 2007

Cigar Store Indian

The wooden cigar store Indian is still found in front of cigar/tobacco shops in NYC. Because Indians had introduced Europeans to the use of tobacco, Indian figures soon came to be used as an emblem of the tobacconist (the first ones appeared in England in the early 1600s and were referred to as Virginie Men). Visual emblems for shops were common at the time - e.g. barber poles for barber shops, gold balls for pawn shops, scissors for tailors and Indians for tobacco shops. Many reasons have been cited for this, among them illiteracy of the populace and immigrants unable to read English. It's surprising to still see these in the city, since some find this icon racially offensive in nature, similar to the black lawn jockey. I found this group in Western Spirit, a large Western Shop at 395 Broadway. There is an active trade in these in the antique market with some fetching as much as six figures ...

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