Cigar Store Indians
Wooden Cigar Store Indians
We Sell Native American hand carved Wooden Cigar Store Indians by Frank Gallagher. Aspen wood from Colorado is the preferred raw material for the creations of the Gallaghers. A photocopy of the two page story highlighting the Gallagher family from the June 1998 Issue of Arizona Highways will be sent with each Gallagher Indian.
We can have the Gallaghers carve a custom Wooden Cigar Indians for an additional price. They have carved a Plumber for us holding a pipe, wearing a hat (with their company logo), suspenders, a shirt with the company name on it and more. He can carve almost anything within reason. It can also be painted with what ever colors you choose.
Frank Gallagher, following in his ancestor's footsteps, is a highly skilled artesian in his own right. His art? The creation of Wooden Cigar Store Indians.
One of the original Wooden Indians are on display in the Smithsonian Institute. The Gallaghers continue the art of carving as their ancestor would want it; the old way - the right way - by hand.
The wide range of Wooden Cigar Store Indians that can be carved is absolutely astounding. Traditional Cigar Store Indians are in many forms - sculpted Indian chiefs, braves, princesses and Indian maidens, sometimes with boarded papooses. Most of these displayed some form of tobacco in their hands or on their clothing.
The American-made Cigar Store Indians were clothed in fringed buckskins, draped with blankets, decorated with feathered headdresses and sometimes shown holding tomahawks or bows, arrows and spears. Sadly, these "generic" Cigar Store Indians facial features rarely resembled members of any particular American Indian tribe.
However, not all of the Wooden Cigar Store Indians created were made by non-Native Americans. One of the most famous Native American carvers of Wooden Cigar Store Indians was Samuel Gallagher. Following the custom of Indian laborers of that era, Samuel took his employer's last name as his own. Samuel began carving Cigar Store Indians in the 1840's after almost all of his tribe, the Man-Dan were killed. Almost the entire Man-Dan village was infected by small pox - it practically wiped out the entire tribe. Samuel however, was away from the village at the time, and was spared the dread disease. His great, great grandson Frank is known to be one of approximately 12 true full-blooded Mandan Indians still living.
Wooden carvings, or Wooden sculptures, is one of the oldest and most widespread forms of natural art. Due to easy access to wood, the relative simplicity of the necessary technology, and the durability of the product, wood carving has been practiced in almost all cultures from the earliest times. Almost hand in hand with woodcarving has developed the agricultural revolution.
Tobacco, for example, is not a "necessary plant" for the continuation of life. Scholars have long debated how it became such an important crop to the indigenous people of the Americas. All that can be known for certain is that in 1561 Jean Nicot gave the tobacco plant the generic name, Nicotiana. In 1586. Sir Walter Raleigh began the popularization of pipe smoking gin Great Britain and the cultivation and consumption of tobacco spread with each voyage of discovery from Europe. This period was exciting for not only commerce but also art - the birth of three-dimensional wood carving evolved from it's previous two-dimensional state on friezes into the statues and forms more commonly seen today.
However it wasn't until 1617 that small wooden figures called "Virginie Men" were placed on counter tops to represent tobacco companies. These precursors to the traditional Native American styled Cigar Store Indians were called "Virginians" (the local English renditions of Indians) and were depicted as black men wearing headdresses and kilts made of tobacco leaves.
The bulk of the early Cigar Store Indians were carved in Eastern seaboard or Midwestern cities by artisans most likely never encountered a Native American; the figures appear to be white men in native garb. As time passed the American entrepreneurial spirit adapted as did the Wooden Cigar Store Indians with it. Some innovative tobacco sellers sought unconventional images for their trade signs to set them apart from the more established merchants. Suddenly a new market sprang up - Wooden Cigar Store Indian carvers competed among themselves for the various tobacconists' business, attempting to "one-up" one other in individuality, versatility and depth.
Wooden Cigar Store Indian artists like the Skillin family, John Cromwell, Thomas Brooks, and Samuel Robb operated full time studios. Many of these famous Cigar Store Indian woodworkers employed a full-time staff of carvers and painters to meet the high production demands for their Cigar Store Indian product. They put out catalogs of the various Cigar Store Indian product lines and frequently updated and expanded the Cigar Store Indian styles and materials. Their works testify to the contemporary enthusiasm for allegorical abstraction and graceful neoclassical forms.
Wooden Cigar Store Indians were designed to capture the attention of the people walking by, informing them that tobacco was sold inside. It is said that the average cigar smoker in America in the late 1800s couldn't read the words "Tobacconist Shop". Furthermore, the Wooden Cigar Store Indians was necessary for business. As America was quickly becoming a social melting pot of people with diverse origins, the average nineteenth-century American resident lacked a shared common language, and so the sidewalk cigar-store Indian was vital for business. Visual trade signs were essentially stand-ins for written sign-posts that might have been incomprehensible to potential customers, many of them immigrants. Thus the Cigar Store Indian, largely due to necessity but also due to its particular grandeur and style, is still famous today.
Today in the late 20th century the best of the Wooden Cigar Store Indians antique sculptures sell for as much as $100,000.