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Ferdinand Hirsch Cigar Factory

CIRCA 1894

Historic Marker 34 is located at 930 Catherine Street.Ferdinand Hirsch came from New York and started manufacturing cigars in Key West in 1892. Mr. Hirsch acquired El Telegrapho brand of cigars from the Key West Havana Company in 1892. The cigar label, featuring a portrait of Samuel Morse, was his most popular cigar brand for nearly a decade.Mr. Hirsch acquired a large brick structure, formerly occupied briefly by El Falcon cigar manufacturers, for his third factory. It was common for cigar manufacturers, large and small, to change hands frequently as businesses grew, brands were expanded or businesses declined. The May 12, 1897 issue of the Tobacco Leaf, a prominent newspaper for cigar makers, stated the facility was “probably one of the finest trade edifices in the State.”The factory at Catherine and Grinnell streets was Mr. Hirsch’s largest cigar factory in Key West. The cigar industry experienced a number of prolonged labor strikes in the early 1890s that were encouraged by Spanish agents from Cuba in an effort to disrupt cigar production and donations by Cuban émigré cigar makers to support Jose Marti’s revolutionary plans. These devastating strikes and disruptions in production convinced Mr. Hirsch and two Key West manufacturers, Celestino Palacio and Charles Baker, to consolidate, establishing the Celestino Palacio Trust. It allowed them to collectively purchase bulk tobacco at a lower price while consolidating shipping and distribution of cigars. Unfortunately, Mr. Hirsch died in 1901 and the Trust was dissolved.Hirsch only owned his impressive factory for a mere four years before he passed away. After his death, the building rotated hands between seven other cigar manufacturers including E.H. Gato (see Historic Marker # 17). During the Depression, the vacated building was used to teach unemployed Key West women how to sew. Presently, it serves as a storage warehouse, and is only one of five large cigar factories still standing in Key West.