Tampa Cigar Industry & History Time Line (1895 to 1899)



Jose J. Marti








Fernando Figueredo









Vicente Martinez Ybor








George N. Benjamin










Teodore Roosevelt









The following is a timeline of some of the most important events that help to create what is for us today'sTampa..._

1895 Monday January 7, - Mr. Fernando Figueredo, first day is office as first West Tampa Mayor, and Mr. George Benjamin who served as president of the City Council for two years.
1895 January 29, - a secret meeting is conducted in New York, and the instruction for the Cuban Revolution of 1895, were send to Tampa. Local leaders on means of smuggling the message into Cuba, was then when someone suggested concealing it in a cigar. Blas O'Halloran hand-made five cigars. The one concealing the message, the historic cigar or "Cigar of Liberty", was distinguishable by two tiny yellow specks on the tip of the cigar wrapper. The cigar arrived to Cuba with theinstructions, but the revolution was a failure.
1895 Sunday January 27, - Tampa suffer the "Great Freeze" when temperatures went below 20 degrees, creating damages to the cigar industry, city was almost paralyzed.

1895 Friday February 1, - the population in West Tampa had grown to 3,500 residents and 30 cigar factories in operation. With assessed value of $ 1.5 million dollars. According to West Tampa City Council meeting records.

1895 Tuesday April 2, - a violent tornado severely damage factories and houses in West Tampa. Over $30,000.00 dollars in damages of uninsured tobacco stock was destroyed to the Armina Cigar Co. #53 located at the corner of Armina Ave. and Walnut Street, other properties were also damaged or destroyed.

  • Thursday April, 18 - today passed-away in Gainesville, Florida, Dr. John P. Wall at the age of 59 years. He is survived by his wife Louise Wall Williams and his son Charles McKay Wall. Dr. Wall is credited with having discovered the cause of the "Yellow Fever", and treatment, as a politician was mayor of Tampa in the period of August 14, 1878 to August 14, 1880. In his period as mayor enacted creating better infra-structure based and focused on sanitation and other health-related issues.

1895 Friday May 17, - West Tampa is incorporated as a City of West Tampa, by the State of Florida, and Fernando Figueredo was the first mayor (1895-1896) , George Benjamin served as President of the first City Council for two years. Members of first city council, J.D. Silva, Martin Herrero, Peter Someillan, L.J. Napolis, V.D. Cruz, Francisco Fleitas and G.N. Benjamin. At the time the Mayor of Tampa was Hon. Frederick A. Solomonson.

1895 May 19, - Jose Marti the Cuban patriot was killed on Cuban soil at Dos Rios during an Spanish army ambush.

1896 - At the beginning of this year forty two cigar factories had relocated to West Tampa, mostly of them from key West. Three new large companies will call West Tampa home this year. In the mean time Ybor City has 48 cigar factories in production.

1896 Monday January 9, - The City Council of West Tampa acquired the plot of land for the public cemetery and named in honor of Jose Marti. J.F. Reed was granted the exclusive right to operate the facility effective today.
1896 Thurday November 12, - - Gen. Valeriano Weyles lifted the embargo of Cuban tobacco to the United States indirectly increasing political pressure in Washington.
1896 Tuesday November 17, - West Tampa Cigar industry celebrated with Ybor City the new title as "Capitol Cigar of the World" for a world record production year of hand made cigars. (Note: This record still valid and never broken).
1896 December 14, - Vicente Martinez Ybor died at the age of 78, the headline of the Tampa Tribune read "Great Benefactor Gone." He was buried in the Catholic section of Oakland Cemetery in downtown Tampa. (1818-1896)
The same date but in different country, Cuba lost a black patriot, and military leader, Antonio Maceo Grajales (1845 – 1896).

1897 - The year started badly for the American cigar producers of "Havana Cigars" due to the present Cuban revolution that was widely getting strong importance by the "yellow press" of editor William Randolph Hearst. The Mayor of West Tampa is Hon. George N. Benjamin, and the Mayor of Tampa is Hon. Myron Gillette.

1897 February 24, – The Florida Brewery started operations. Organized by Eduardo Manrrara, and German investors, was the first in Florida and Georgia, but sold the most beer in Cuba. The building located on 5th Avenue, was based on the design of the Castle Brewery in Johannesburg, South Africa.
1898 - This year the conditions in Cuba worsened, and American intervention was inevitable. During the first part of the year, the routine in Tampa changed month to month as the stage for the war preparations was developed.
1898 Tuesday February 15, - the battleship USS Maine was sunk (under very questionable circumstances) while leaving in Havana Harbor, and with the American's newspaper howling for Spanish blood, it wasn't hard to determine the results.
1898 Sunday April 24, - the war to Spain was declare by the United States, and Tampa had already been picked as a major staging area for the troops. The Tampa Bay Hotel became the residence for officers, and soldiers camped out in the area between the Port of Tampa and Ybor City. The American intervention in Cuba will mean more hardship for Tampa cigar manufacturers.
1898 April 28, - Miss Clara Barton of the Red Cross Society arrived here tonight from Washington, and she with the entire Red Cross force, will leave Tampa to Key West. She will stay as a special guest at El Pasaje Hotel. – New York Post Report

1898 April 29, - Gen. Wade and his staff made an official call today on Miss Clara Barton, and they had an important conference of half hour. The exact nature of it is not known, but Miss Barton admitted that her future movements were concerned in it. Tonight Miss Barton and those of the society who were with her left on the steamship Mascotte for Key West.
1898 Thursday May 12, - The first invasion force of American troops left for Cuba at 2 pm this afternoon on the Steamer Gussie. It consisted of Companies E and G of the First Infantry, and the twenty Cubans who go with them.
1898 Thursday May 26, - Theodore Roosevelt, and the Rough Riders are camp at the Benjamin Park (today’s Ft. Homer Hestery Armory). Many other troops are already camp all around the city.
1898 Sunday August 14, - Hostilities have ceased and the war has come to end… Spain will relinquish all claims of sovereignty over Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines . The Cubans of Tampa are pleased at the end of the war & now tobacco could be shipped to Tampa without interference.
1899 Thursday April 6, -The first general strike was declared by the cigar workers. Cigar production was minimal and the economy is by first time greatly affected at all levels in the Tampa area. The reason of the strike was when Spanish workers demanded that a popular Cuban foreman in Martinez Ybor Cigar Co.(Ybor City) be fired for dismissing a Spanish worker because of his nationality. At the time 4,000 workers left their benches. Eventually the foreman was fired after few weeks. During the strike one person was shot, and several wounded.
1899 Saturday April 8, - the Clear Havana Syndicate is created in this date, with this new syndicate or trust, competition could be reduced, and tobacco purchases could be made in large quantities, saving thousands of dollars to combined tobacco interest. Most of the cigar manufacturing companies in Tampa are members.
1899 July 7th, - Spaniards join La Resistencia, a local union, and placed alongside the Cubans cigar workers. Some 4,000 cigar makers go on strike protesting the introduction of the weight scales in the “Principe de Gales” factory. By August 10 both sides conceded both request, and went back to work the next day.


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History Collection

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Author - Researcher: W. Reyes, Ph.D.