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Street Level some as colorful as circus posters, with painted pictures of kings, queens, potentates and exotic places. Evidence of the cigar industry still can be found. A photo on the Internet shows a fading El Moro ad on the side of a building in Burlington. Ebay recently sought bids for a cigar box from the small Lang Cigar Co. The company founder, Roger Lang, bucked the trend of other cigar makers for a while. Before moving to South Elm Street, he made Langos in his home on Wharton Street in Fisher Park. He employed four men, no women. A handwritten memo he wrote circa 1912 says the company made 20,250 cigars in April and sold 16,905 of them. The Greensboro Historical Museum has on display in its re-creation of the city’s old Clegg Hotel lobby a number of boxes with El-Rees-So cigars. The display also includes a box for the General Greene cigar, made by Clegg Cigar Co., but devoid of stogies. Clegg started in 1889, perhaps the oldest of the local cigar manufacturers. Founder William Clegg also owned the hotel, which was near the cigar factory, both near the corner where the historical marker will stand. William Clegg also owned real estate and the Greensboro Patriots minor league baseball team. His cigar brands included one named for himself, another called Henry Vane and finally, the General Greene, which later became the company’s only product. Women no doubt made the cigars, but Clegg Co. stationery specified that the Gen. Greene was “for men only.” The cigar industry vanished in 1955 when one of the two last makers, El Moro, was sold to a Red Lion, Pennsylania, company, which has since been bought by Advantage Services, which is not far away, in Charlotte, in fact. It continues to make El-Rees-So. The El-Rees-So stogies at the historical museum date to the company’s Greensboro years. Historian Stoesen speculates that the demise of the cigar industry was related to a shift to cigarette smoking that intensified during World War I and World War II. Cigarette makers placed a four-cigarette pack in the mess kit of every soldier, sailor and Marine. Cigars became outdated, something older men chewed on. Many years after cigars burned out in the city, they are back big time, though without a return of the cigar plants. Quaint cigar shops in the Greensboro suburbs sell imported cigars. They still come in boxes, but sophisticated smokers store them at home and in offices in expensive humidors. There’s even an upscale, slick magazine devoted to cigar smoking, Cigar Aficianado. Greensboro never seemed to take pride in its cigar industry. Few mentions are found in old newspapers, and the chamber of commerce didn’t seem inclined to tout it. Perhaps, local boosters shunned giving public tours of cigar factories where girls and young women were stuffed into rooms as tight as boxed cigars. Historian Ethel Arnett quotes a civic leader in the 1890s as saying Greensboro citizens “looked askance upon the idea of converting Greensboro into a tobacco manufacturing center.” That was during the period when the Cone brothers had started their textile plants here. Greensboro apparently wanted to be known for cloth rather than cigars. As the cigar makers closed one by one, Stoesen speculates the women sought better paying jobs in the textile plants. Ironically, the same year the cigar industry ceased in 1955, Greensboro’s first cigarette plant in many years arose, Lorillard, a $13 million colossus on East Market Street. It has steadily employed more than 1,000 people for years. Lorillard moved its corporate headquarters from New York to Greensboro in 1997. And lest you think that Greensboro’s cigar industry was totally dominated by men, consider Guilford Cigar Co. on Lee Street. When it closed in 1955, records indicate that it was owned by a woman, Swannie Ingold. OH

122 YEARS

GOING STRONG

Over the past century many colleges have come and gone. So, making it to the ripe old age of 122 says a lot about an institution’s strength. Longevity, however, is just one of Meredith College’s assets. Since its founding, Meredith has helped strong, bright women become even brighter and stronger. Today, Meredith has grown into one of America’s Best Colleges (according to U.S. News, Forbes, and The Princeton Review Review) with undergraduate and graduate students from 31 states and 42 countries. In other words, we’re going strong. Go strong at meredith.edu.

Jim Schlosser is a contributing editor of O.Henry magazine He can be reached at jim@ohenrymag.com The Art & Soul of Greensboro

November 2013

O.Henry 43

November 2013 O.Henry  

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

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