Oldest cigars in the world on display in an underground vault in Ybor

A cigar purveyor stands in front of a glass case containing the oldes cigars in the world. The setting is rustic, an aged “cigar vault” beneath a full factory.

J.C. Newman Cigar Co. just dropped a historic bombshell right here in Tampa! They’ve unveiled an exhibit showcasing the world’s oldest known cigars at their iconic El Reloj cigar factory and museum (2701 N 16th St).

These 18 cigars are straight out of Cuba, hand-rolled back in 1857. They’re no ordinary smokes – they’ve got an epic backstory. Recovered from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, where the S.S. Central America met its end off Charleston, S.C., they’ve spent over a century underwater. Thanks to some serious TLC from the folks at Ohio State University, they’re ready for their close-up. But that’s not all – J.C. Newman’s exhibit also features chewing tobacco and a bone-carved pipe, fellow relics from the ship’s depths. It’s a slice of history right in our backyard.


JC Newman makes this area the Cigar City

Earlier this year, J.C. Newman purchased these cigars at an auction featuring artifacts from the S.S. Central America.

“The 18 cigars vary in size because they were rolled by hand without cigar molds, which did not became popular until the late 1800s,” said Newman. “Despite spending 134 years under water, the cigars are still smokable today.”

The exhibit was created by J.C. Newman’s Brooklyn- and Tampa-based design partner, Common Bond Design.


“Prior to the discovery of these cigars, the oldest known cigars in the world were from 1863,” said Newman. “We have checked with the leading cigar publications and collectors, and no one is aware of any cigars older than these.”

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