In January 1882 the Courier announced a new cigar business started by Carl Lauterbach opening in town. It was located in the Vandewark Block of Jefferson Street. Cost of the business, which officially opened on March 9, 1882 was $5,000.
From 1882 to 1940, cigars in Fort Collins were manufactured by three different companies. Charles (Carl) Lauterbach who came here from Zanesville, Ohio was the first. He located in the Vandewark Block on Jefferson Street. The August 19, 1882 Fort Collins Courier stated that “Lauterbach has thoroughly canvassed the town and asserts that the amount of cigars sold here would give ample support to 25 workers and their families.” He obtained the best quality tobacco from a tobacco mart at Baltimore.
His cigars were so highly regarded that at one point, Ansel Watrous, then one of the editors of the Fort Collins Courier, outlined six reasons why Fort Collins smokers should purchase Lauterbach cigars. Watrous proclaimed that “no cigar but a hand-made cigar is fit to smoke.”
Later Lauterbach moved his factory to 210 Linden Street where the building still remains. He retired in 1900 when James Swan and Laurence Nightingale took over the business. On August 18, 1915, the Fort Collins Courier Express reported that Charles Lauderbach “dropped dead (at the age of 86) in the lobby of the Brown Hotel in Denver on August 17, 1915 of heart failure.” Lauderbach is buried in Grandview Cemetery.
Otto Schmidt set up his business west of Peter Anderson’s Mercantile Shop at 218 Walnut Street (where the Silver Grill is now located).
In 1906 Fred Watson came to Fort Collins and set up his shop on the 2nd floor of 429 E. Magnolia. He later moved to 131 S. College (Garwood Jewelers). He and his wife Myra lived in the back of the shop and employed six others. Watson posted signs all over town advertising his cigars and his they were in great demand. His ads proclaimed – “You owe it to yourself to find out why so many people smoke the Old Master. Ten cents invested in an Old Master will explain it.” His other brands, the “Great Divide” and “Town Boast” sold for five cents apiece.
The tobacco Watson purchased was brought to town in 300 pound crates, the size of a refrigerator. In 1917 Watson had a wooden Indian posted outside his building. Each night, Ray Williams, one of his employees was charged with a special responsibility. He carried the Indian in from the sidewalk because they feared that college students might steal it.
NOTE — Cigar store Indians are a form of American Folk Art dating back to the 1800s. They were commonly placed on the walk in front of tobacconist shops to direct illiterate customers to the shop. Also, since there were so many immigrants that couldn’t read English, it was common to use visual trade signs such as a carving instead of written signs to bridge the language barrier. An Indian was chosen for a tobacco shop because it was Indians that introduced tobacco to early explorers of the America therefore they were commonly associated with tobacco. In the late 1800s, new restrictions regarding the placement of trade signs on the sidewalk marked the decline of their use.
In 1924 Haulcie Roberts purchased Watson’s factory and produced cigars until 1935. His equipment is housed in the Fort Collins Museum.
Fort Collins cigar factories closed down in 1940, unable to compete with the large factory-made cigars.