Cigar-store Indians have a long history. They appeared first in England in the seventeenth century with the arrival of tobacco. The English knew that the new import of tobacco coming into the country was derived from the tobacco used by American Indians. They responded by stationing carved wooden Indians outside the new tobacco shops as advertising figures. In the eighteenth century, life-sized wooden Indians appeared outside American tobacco shops. Today antique carved wooden Indians are valuable collector’s items and are quite rare. Wooden Indians are no longer seen outside tobacco shops, and shops like these are nearly gone.
There is, however, one pair of recently-produced bookends to remind collectors and tobacco lovers of the wooden advertising Indians of bygone eras. Each Indian of this pair presents a handful of cigars because Indians holding cigars were commonplace and were called cigar-store Indians. The bookends are not carved of wood, and they are novelties rather than serious art work, but they are cast in substantial iron, and they are fun conversation pieces Recent iron bookends are somewhat unusual because relatively few pairs of iron bookends were produced after 1930, and today new bookends are frequently of resin.