The Continental Cigarettes – O. F. Rawson & Co

The latest additions to my collection have come from a swap with an advanced collector who has been very generous with his exchanges. I obtained several items, of which some might be included here in Brandstand. The pack that I have found most interesting is ‘The Continental’ cigarettes made by O. F. Rawson of Worcester, Massachusetts. This one comes with a Series 1879 tax stamp for 10 cigarettes with no visible overprint. I expected this pack to be empty given its age and weight, but I was pleasantly surprised to see just one of the cigarettes remaining. The smoker clearly knew that 140 years later we would want to see what the actual cigarette looked like and left one for us to study. Indeed, as indicated on the pack the cigarette is made of ‘pure Havana tobacco, without paper’. I love the simple advertising, reflecting that early period of cigarette manufacture; perhaps just prior to or at the time of the invention of the Bonsack machine.

The maker, Oscar F Rawson was born in Sutton, Mass. on June 4th, 1840 and by the time he was 20 years of age was already listed as a cigar manufacturer in Worcester Mass. He had two children with his wife Amealia and over the years he was involved in several businesses. One of his early partnerships was in 1865, called Maynard & Rawson on 243 Main Street. By the early 1870s he would start occupying the premises where he would spend the rest of his career on 391 Main Street. In 1899 he was involved in another partnership, Rawson & Simpson Co., also cigar manufacturers. He stayed on 391 Main Street until at least 1911.

By February 1913 Rawson decided to discontinue his retail business and focus solely on wholesale. Two of his sales employees, R. Clayton Green and Dennis M Howley purchased his retail cigar business and continued it on 395 Main Street, just next door to their old boss. Rawson was also an agent for several railroad and steamship companies and used the same address to conduct both businesses. For reasons unknown, possibly retirement or death, his estate was advertised for sale by auction in 1915. This auction included all his copyrighted cigar brands, cigar making equipment and personal property associated with the plant.

The photograph below shows Rawson’s cigar store with Oscar possibly one of the two gentlemen pictured. Although undated I might estimate the photograph to be from the 1890s to early 1900s based on the men’s outfits although I am certainly no expert on the subject. You can also see an advertisement for a return trip to Lake Pleasant just above the head of the gentleman on the right. Clearly as part of his duties as an agent for steamship company tours. A rare delight to see the actual place of work for a small independent, local maker. My thanks to Jeffrey Kraus for granting me permission to use this image from his collection.

Oscar F Rawson, Cigar Manufacture – date unknown. Photo Credit: Jeffrey Kraus Collection (

Please click HERE to access my Rawson pack

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