Charles G. Goetz & the Paris Cigar Factory

Source of photo: Monroe County Appeal Centennial Edition dated August 13, 1931; submitted by Mary Beth Kirtlink

When I was a boy every town of 1,000 or more had a cigar factory and store. It employed several men. The proprietor waited on the trade and spent his spare time making cigars, most of which were not very good.

A young immigrant named Charley G. Goetz, a native of Germany, came to Paris from St. Louis with $75.00 of borrowed money, to establish a cigar factory, in the early eighties. Fro two or three years he cooked, ate and slept in his place of business, during which time he had become a valuable member of the community, not only because he was prospering in his business but also because he was active in community enterprises.

I recall the jug band Mr. Goetz organized and trained. In addition to a violinist and guitar player, he had five young men who served as accompanists on jugs. As a violinist and guitarist carried the tune, the jug artists would accompany them by blowing into the mouths of their jugs and keeping time with the tune. After a little practice the effect was very pleasing.

In the course of time Charley Goetz was elected mayor of the town, in which capacity he served until his death in the late twenties. In 1917, while rolling cigars at his bench, he got word that his adopted country had declared war on Germany, the land of his birth. Hastening to the city hall he raised the stars and stripes to the top of the flagpole, and ordered that the flag fly day and night until Germany gave up and sued for peace, which was done. Meantime, this German-born mayor played a leading part in all war activities and otherwise set a fine example of constructive patriotism.

Mayor Goetz named his cigar “The Paris Queen.” He personally selected the tobaccos which went into it, using a special leaf that was grown in Pennsylvania. On his 10 cent cigar he used wrappers from far away Sumatra. For 50 years his 5 cents cigar was in big demand locally. When a Paris man changed location, he usually induced some dealer in his new home to stock a box of Queens, failing which he would have the box shipped direct to him. Being a man of considerable political influence, Mayor Goetz made customers among candidates for office. United States Senators and Representatives, along with state officers, were among those from whom he had orders and testimonials.

The general run of small town cigar factories worked one to five men, along with a boy who did the stripping. The pay was at the rate of one penny for each cigar. A workman who was fairly good would make around 300 a day. However, when the tobacco was in what they called proper “case” they could increase the number to 350 or 400. For many years Charley Goetz would market 100,000 cigars a year from his little factory here in Paris.

A favorite Saturday night event for a select lot of local citizens was the beer and hamburger party in the back room of Charley’s cigar shop. Although no beer could be bought in the town, a keg or two would be imported from Hannibal or Moberly each week, in time to be properly iced for this party. In addition to foaming mugs of beer, raw hamburger, crackers and pickles were served. Lawyers, county and city officers, merchants and mechanics were regular attendants. Most every sort of a problem would be solved in the course of the evening. Those Saturday evening parties were not very popular, however, with local temperance leaders.

With the advent of the cigarette the small town cigar factory was doomed. It was a slow death, however, because of small town prejudice against cigarettes. It was years before women began smoking. They would no more have thought of going to a cigar store for their supplies than they would have gone to a saloon for them. Cigarettes, which previously had been considered unmanly things, gradually came to be tolerated for both men and women. And since women would never think of smoking cigars, men soon began discarding cigars and pipes in favor of cigarettes, so they could smoke with their sweethearts and wives when out together. The cigar factory which had prospered through so many years discharged first one cigar-maker, then another, until finally it had to close its doors and quit. It was this in thousands of small towns and cities from coast to coast. Something really went out of the life of the local community when its cigar store passed out of the picture.

Source: When I Was a Boy by Robert Bodine