Peabody Singing Tower

 North Manchester, Indiana

Recipient of Indiana Historical Society's Awards--"2013 Outstanding Project Award" &
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Early 1880s

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 Main St. 1923-1928


Blackmore Cigars



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Mfg Industries


N.M. Airport

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Oppenheim-125 Yrs

Peabody Retirement

Peabody Seating



Planing Mill

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Warner Brooder

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Source: NMHS Newsletter November 2008

STOKIN' ON STOGIES--Frank M. Gift and Cigar Manufacturing in 1886

By John Knarr

Two years ago I visited the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal, MO. Samuel "Mark Twain" Clemens frequently wrapped his humor around cigars and tobacco. Clemens once irreverently commented, "If smoking is not allowed in heaven, I shall not go." An inveterate smoker, he said,, "I smoke in moderation...Only one cigar at a time" and "To cease smoking is the easiest thing...I ought to know. I've done it a thousand times." On another occasion, he remarked that he paid $5 a barrel for his cigars because he was incurably extravagant. In a 1905 letter to a friend, Mark Twain wrote, "I know a good cigar better than you do, for I have had sixty years' experience. No, that is not what I mean; I mean I know a bad cigar better than anybody else. I judge by the price only; if it costs above 5 cents, I know it to be either foreign or half foreign and unsmokable."

In visiting Hannibal, I wanted to get a better feel for the environs of this American writer's early life and especially the social and economic context of this pervasive "tobacco culture." The exhibits on his family migration and steamboat experiences were fascinating. I had also read in Twain's autobiography that as a very young boy at age eight in Hannibal he had acquired a taste for cigars. At that time the streets and sidewalks in Hannibal were littered with cigar stubs.

When Clemens was growing up in Hannibal, cigar making was a profession. He found stubs on the ground and tried them out. The native cigar was then so cheap that a person who could afford anything could afford cigars. Tobacco was then widely grown in MO in the 1840s and 1850s. In an essay published in 1883, "Smoking as Inspiration", he wrote: "I began to smoke immoderately when I was eight years old. That is, I began with one hundred cigars a month, and by the time I was twenty I had increased my allowance to two hundred a month. Before I was thirty, I had increased it to three hundred a month." Clemens also wrote an essay published in the early 1890s, "Concerning Tobacco."

Clemens registered the name Mark Twain as a trademark, and to augment income he endorsed numerous products, including cigars. He also published the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, that iconic leading military, political and public figure who loved his cigars. Grant died of throat cancer and his tomb is located in New York City beside the Hudson River...but that is another story.

Up the river from Hannibal, at La Grange, MO, there lived Thomas Riley Marshall, a very young boy in 1860 who was destined to become the Vice President with Woodrow Wilson. Born in North Manchester, Indiana, Marshall later famously quipped, "What this country needs is a really good five-cent cigar." The Dr. Daniel Marshall family had moved to La Grange, MO, and the family appeared in the 1860 census for La Grange, MO. At six years of age, this was the first appearance of Tom Marshall in any Federal census.

This intriguing intersection of Thomas Riley Marshall with Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens on the Mississippi prompted me to find another document at the court house in Hannibal. There I found the marriage record for Frank M. Gift and Emma Ginter. They were married on November 18, 1885 in Hannibal [Marriage Record Book 7, Page 101, Marion County, MO]. Shortly after his marriage in November 1885, Frank and his wife moved to North Manchester, Indiana, to commence the manufacture of cigars. Why did Gift come to North Manchester? Where was he previously? What was his background? What were his family connections? What do we know about his cigar manufacturing activities? What ever happened to him? These were the initial questions that have spurred my continuing research into the origins and development of cigar manufacturing in North Manchester between 1886 and 1923.

The Gift family came from Preble County, OH. Many other families earlier had migrated from Preble County and surrounding Ohio counties to the North Manchester area. The first white child born in North Manchester was a daughter of Eli Harter from Preble County. Eli Harter had built the second house in North Manchester in September 1836. It was a log cabin on the banks of the Eel River on the south side of what today is Main Street. Here on October 27, 1836, Phoebe Ann Harter was born. (The News-Journal, January 18, 1923) Frank Gift's mother was Mary Ann Argerbright. Her brother Solomon had located in the North Manchester area. In the 1870 Federal Census for North Manchester, S. Arkerbright was listed as a Cabinet Maker; in the 1880 Census he was identified as an undertaker. In 1883-1884 Argerbright owned real estate where my bookstore (JBK Books) now stands at 206 East Main Street.

It should also be noted that the "tobacco culture" was at that time very influential in Preble County.

From R.E. Lowry, History of Preble County Ohio (1915): "Its culture had secured a good start when the Civil War came, and the demand for cigar tobacco increased largely by reason of the lack of southern tobacco that had been largely used for smoking. This demand made the tobacco crop a much more paying crop than any other. It spread rapidly and has become a permanent feature, until today it is perhaps true that Preble, Darke and Montgomery counties raise one-half of the tobacco raised in the state."

Frank Gift had three brothers and two sisters. One of the brothers, Charles Calvin (Cal) appeared in the Directory of Preble County, OH, 1875 as employed at Quinn & Klinger, Cigar Manufacturer in Eaton, Preble County. In the 1880 United States Federal Census, Frank age 21 and William age 17 were listed as living with their mother; their listed occupation was "Works in Cigar Shop." Brother Cal was listed as age 21, Cigar Maker, boarding in Cincinnati with other boarders who also were cigar makers. Frank's wife Emma Guenter (Ginter) came from Cincinnati, and both Frank and Emma were interred at a Cincinnati cemetery. Frank's youngest brother William Milton was shot to death by Jeff Treadway in September1883 in Hannibal, Missouri. When I attempted to read the local newspapers at the Marion County Historical Society to learn more of that circumstance, the newspapers were not available in the summer of 2007 to researchers because of storage and construction issues. According to an obituary, William's body was brought back to Eaton "escorted by Cigar Makers of Eaton." Gift's family and work connections were therefore numerous regarding Preble County, Cincinnati, Hannibal, and the tobacco/cigar industry.

North Manchester Journal, February 4, 1886: The new cigar firm of Argerbright & Gift have opened their shop in the second story of Hamilton's new room adjoining the opera house. Access is had to their place of business by means of the opera house stairs. Mr. Gift is an experienced cigar-maker and will superintend the manufacturing part of the business, while Mr. Argerbright will take the road and do the soliciting for the firm, a line of business in which he has had some experience. They should be accorded a generous patronage.

North Manchester Journal, March 4, 1886: The cigar factory of Argerbright & Gift is building up a splendid trade. After a canvass of the town last week they had orders for several thousand cigars from our home dealers; enough to keep the force they now have running for a long time. We are glad to know that they are receiving the patronage and support of our business men. They make a good quality of cigars and will evidently take the lead in the city.

North Manchester Journal, April 22, 1886: We are glad to learn of the prosperity of the cigar factory of Argerbright & Gift. They are way behind with their orders now and there is no let up.

Employment problems at the cigar factory? As reported in the North Manchester Journal, May 6, 1886: Two of the cigar makers employed in Argerbright & Gift's factory went on the road last week at the request of the firm. They will not be back.

Business competition from other cigar manufacturers, as reported in the North Manchester Journal, June 17, 1886: ...Charley Bentley, the popular cigar manufacturer, of Warsaw, who was in the city taking orders for his well known brands of cigars. Mr. Bentley makes a fine cigar and when smokers try them once they are always favorites. Besides the "C.B.B." and "Standard," on which he has had a big run, he has added the "Compromise" and "Royal Champion" which are equally good, if not better. Try these brands when you want a good smoke. Another competitor from Peru, as reported in the North Manchester Journal, September 16, 1886: G.M. Webb, the Peru cigar and tobacco man, was in town Monday. "Dode," as he is familiarly called always has some new trick to show the boys. Research Note: Besides Webb, there were three other cigar manufacturers in Peru listed in the 1886-1887 Peru City Directory.

Argerbright sells interest in the cigar factory, as reported in the North Manchester Journal, July 8, 1886: One day last week Sol Argerbright sold his interest in the cigar factory to Gift Bros., who now run the business by themselves. Although residents of the place but a short time they have made many friends and have showed themselves to be honorable, upright gentlemen, and the Journal trusts they may be successful beyond their highest expectations in their business.

Locally branded cigar advertising by the Gift Brothers in North Manchester Journal, October-November, 1886:

Try the "Camp Fire" cigars.

Smoke the celebrated "Camp Fire" cigar.

The "Camp Fire" cigars have no superior.

Call for the "Camp Fire" cigars when you go to buy.

We recommend the "Camp Fire" cigars to all smokers, Gift Bros.

We have smoked "Camp Fire" cigars & pronounce them the best.

Do not smoke cheap graded cigars when you can get a "Camp Fire" for five cents.

The choice of the "Camp Fire" brand name might have been influenced by activities of the local Grand Army Post No. 199 (first organized in June 28, 1883). In November 1886, the new G.A.R. building was dedicated and the ceremony included a Grand Camp-Fire. According to Thomas J. McCrory in Grand Army of the Republic (2005), the campfire reminded veterans of happier times, a relaxed camaraderie, and shared experiences. At G.A.R. reunions, campfires "quicken the blood" and were an important and enduring aspect of G.A.R. life.

Author's Note: Frank Gift was apparently active in the Knights of Pythias. In the History of Gift, Kern, Royer Families (1909), Gift is photographed wearing K of P attire. When his second wife died in Grant County in 1900, her funeral services were conducted by the Rathbone Sisters, a women's auxiliary of the K of P. The effort to organize a Knights of Pythias lodge in North Manchester was in the same year that Gift started his cigar enterprise. (See N.M. Journal, May 27, 1886.) The saga of cigar manufacturing in North Manchester continued until the early 1920s. I wish to thank Allan White for providing several leads for this research. Jane Lightner of the Preble Co. Historical Society, assisted with information on Preble County.