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Cigar Store Indian

ca. 1870
85 x 24 3/8 x 26 1/2 in. (215.9 x 61.9 x 67.3 cm)

Thomas V. Brooks
United States (1828 - 1895)

Object Type: Sculpture
Medium and Support: Wood and paint
Credit Line: Marion Stratton Gould Fund
Accession Number: 1963.8
Location: Currently on view
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If you approached 50 West Main Street in Rochester late in the 19th century, you would have seen this figure standing in front of the tobacco shop located there. So that no one would miss the point that tobacco products were sold inside, it was purchased to stand outside and advertise the shop’s wares. The carving included stylized tobacco leaves and a tobacco box held in the figure’s outstretched right hand.

Carvers capitalized early on the relationship between Native Americans and the tobacco that they grew for sacred practices. Carvings of Native Americans were used by the 18th century in British tobacco shops, reflecting the growth of the transatlantic trade. With laws restricting sidewalk signs, and the decline of tobacco shops due to public health awareness, the once-ubiquitous cigar store Indian has become a rarity.

[Gallery label text, 2002]

P. A. Buckley, Rochester, NY; George F. Carlton, Rochester, NY; Walter Vogel, West Henrietta, NY (dealer); purchased by the Gallery in 1963

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Rochester Images project Ca. 1910 view of the Cigar Store Indian in front of the United States Hotel, first home of the University of Rochester.

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