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Setting the Stage

American Indians introduced tobacco to the Spanish, who in turn introduced it to the rest of Europe in the second half of the 16th century. It was not until the early to mid-19th century, however, that cigar smoking became popular. Cigars made in Havana, Cuba, from Cuban-grown tobacco became the standard of quality, and American, as well as European, markets made Cuba prosperous. In 1857, in an attempt to raise revenue, the United States put a high tariff, or tax, on Cuban cigars. Many cigar factory owners in Cuba continued to flourish despite these new taxes because increasing numbers of Americans began to smoke cigars, and "clear Havana" cigars were the best. To escape the costs of paying the tariff, some Cuban cigar factory owners moved their factories to Florida, New York, and other parts of the United States. They also prospered because their cigars continued to be made by Cuban workers from tobacco leaves imported from Cuba. Vicente Martinez Ybor was one of the cigar factory owners who moved his operations to Key West, Florida. In 1885 he relocated yet again, to an area two miles northeast of Tampa. This area, known as Ybor City, became part of Tampa in 1887.




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