The White House Cigars

Ah, the cigar. Emanating power and prestige, it’s kind of like a Rolls Royce, but much easier to put in your mouth. Because of this esteemed reputation, it’s not surprising that cigars have been smoked by many of our nation’s past presidents. Whether scratching at the back door or sneaking in through an open window, cigars have found their way into the White House during several presidential terms.

We all know that JFK was an avid fan of Cuban cigars, and we know that Bill Clinton also put cigars to use – albeit strange use – but use nonetheless. However, what we might not know is that 20 of the past 43 presidents have smoked cigars. From the Civil War to the Cold War, presidents have turned to cigars in times of trials and times of joy. While some smoked cigars less zealously, the following is a list of presidents who were passionate cigars smokers, stopping just short of nominating Henry Clay for their presidential cabinets.

Zachary Taylor

The twelfth president, Zachary Taylor was known as a hero of the Mexican War and elected president in 1848. A soldier who had dedicated his life to military service, Taylor was an avid cigar smoker. However, ever a “man’s man,” he would only smoke cigars in the presence of men who were also cigar smokers. Known as “Old Rough and Ready” because of his choice of clothing, Zachary Taylor died in office after eating cuban cigar the ever-so-tasty combination of cherries, milk, and pickled cucumbers.

Ulysses S. Grant

If ever there was a president who was a true cigar connoisseur, it was probably Ulysses S. Grant. A Civil War hero, Grant was elected as the 18th President in 1869. Never doing anything in moderation, he was rumored to have smoked 20 cigars per day. In fact, one legend states that he smoked over 10,000 cigars in a period of five years.

During his campaign for the presidency, his cigar smoking was used as a propaganda-laden ploy with the emergence of the song, “A Smokin’ His Cigar.” With lyrics that went, “The people know just what they want. Less talk and no more war. For President, Ulysses Grant A-smoking his cigar,” US Grant was portrayed as a peace-loving man, calm and collected during times of strife. Once he was elected, Grant took his love for the cigar even further and was rarely photographed without a cigar in hand, or in mouth.

Chester Arthur

The 21st President elected in 1881, Chester Arthur was society’s president, known for lavish clothing, midnight suppers, and meals filled with champagne and expensive cigars. Fired for bribery and corruption in earlier years, Arthur grew to be called “The Gentleman Boss,” showcasing politeness, social stature and the luxuries of the times. This ultimately brought him, and the cigar, to a new level of honor and caused the journalist Alexander K. McClure to write, “No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted, and no one ever retired… more generally respected.”


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