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A good smoke was a hometown cigar

Photo Caption: H.W. Schmidt cigar box with circa 1845 cigar cutter and meerschaum cigar holder.

Photo Caption: H.W. Schmidt cigar box with circa 1845 cigar cutter and meerschaum cigar holder.

By Keva Hoffmann Boardman —

So, I’m still in “cigar-mode.” Once begun, research on a subject takes me down many roads, each with their own questions to answer.

For instance, I found out that early New Braunfels had cigar makers. These were not big outfits, but little factories which had one to five individuals who hand-rolled the cigars. While some did grow their own tobacco, most obtained tobacco leaves from Cuba and places in east Texas and Louisiana. It almost goes without saying that most of the makers here in New Braunfels had been trained back in Germany.

As early as 1853, a Mr. Arnold is listed as a local cigar maker in the city. Gustav Conrads set up a cigar factory in 1871, and employed four workers until 1874. Ed Rische, formerly a New Braunfels resident, advertised in 1880 that he had opened a factory in San Antonio and would sell locals (his old friends) his cigars. Gus Mittendorf had been making cigars in his small factory in Comaltown for several years. In 1896, he moved his enterprise out to Austin Hill. Adam von Buchberg reportedly began a cigar factory in 1896 which was still operating in 1902. It is difficult to find information on these early men, but now they are on my radar. Does anyone know of some Hispanic cigar makers?

Carl Schreyer (Schreier) started his cigar making business in 1901. Carl had moved his family to New Braunfels in 1898. He was fond of singing and was a member of the Protestant Church choir and the Echo men’s singing society. He was also in Hermann Sons. His cigars were so good that they won prizes at the Comal County Fair in 1903. The Schreyer cigar factory was located in Comaltown.

Carl also manufactured a special cigar blend for Ed Gruene. “Ed Gruene’s Military Band” brand cigar box featured a photo of the band on the inside of the cigar box lid. Members in the photo were: Director Gruene; Robert Schreyer, brother of cigar maker Carl; Robert Zipp; Alwin Steinbring; Edward Kanz; Harry Eberhardt; Oscar Braunholz; Henry Dierks; Carl Freitag; Richard Nolte; Willie Nuhn; Carl Fehlis; Carl Druebert; Willie Gebhardt, founder of the Gebhardt Chili Co.; Robert Kirmse; Edwin Eberhardt; and drum major Adam von Buchberg, who also made cigars.

The best-known local cigar maker was H.W. Schmidt. He was born at Bünde, Westphalia, in 1866. Schmidt learned cigar making as a young man in Germany before he immigrated alone to America when he was 18 years old. Schmidt moved around mid-America living and making cigars in St. Louis, Denver, and Milwaukee. It was in Milwaukee that a doctor diagnosed him with a heart ailment and told him to move to the Texas Hill Country region. In 1905, H.W. Schmidt moved to New Braunfels with his wife and two daughters. He opened his cigar factory in 1906, featuring his “Comal” and “Colorado” brands. Schmidt sold his cigars to almost all the saloons in downtown New Braunfels and in rural Comal County. His first factory was in the “old Schnabel home on Comal Street.” Later, he moved the factory to “Mrs. Scherff’s recently vacated building on Mill Street.” Schmidt entered his cigars and tobacco in the 1908 Comal County Fair. By 1909, he may have opened another factory in Lockhart. He also bought Ed Kuhfuss’s billiard and pool establishment, “The Smoke House,” at 508 San Antonio St. He promised patrons that the quality of his cigars would never be lacking. His brothers Ernst and Herman joined him in the factory; they are listed along with H.W. as cigar makers in the 1920 US Census.

While H.W. Schmidt sold his own brands of cigars, he also blended custom cigars for many of his patrons. These were boxed under exclusive labels. At least two of these patrons featured their sons’ portraits on the cigar boxes. “Little Dan” cigars were made for saloon owner Otto Reeh who at one time also managed the Phoenix Saloon. “Little Julius” or “Little Schleyer” cigars were made for Ed Schleyer who sold them in his saloon. Julius Schleyer, known as “Judge” Schleyer, was later a prominent local attorney but he was just a small child when his face graced his dad’s exclusive cigar boxes in 1906.

Fischer Store, out near what is now Canyon Lake, bought and sold many H.W. Schmidt’s cigars. Schmidt also shipped his cigars to the community of Comfort and towns in the Hill Country. The New Braunfels Herald even reported that Max Neuse kept himself supplied with Schmidt’s cigars when he went off to World War I. Schmidt cigars were obviously a local favorite for many years.

H.W. Schmidt died from complications following surgery in 1929. Carl Schreyer had died in 1928. With their passing, the era of a good hand-rolled local cigar had come to an end.

Sources: Sophienburg Museum: NB Zeitung and Herald newspaper collections; Family genealogy collections; Oscar Haas; Edna Faust and Marjorie Cook collections.