Cigar Store Indian Statue Resource Information Center

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Chie Kramer at 317 493-8583 our location at 7752 Fall creek drive, indianapolis,in. 46236
317 493-8583
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Statue Size and Price are 400 to 600 dollars for a 4 to 6 foot
Any style you choose.

History of the Cigar Store Indian, Wooden Indians,
Shop Figures and Wood Statues used as commerical advertisment signpost's for retail and tobacco shops throughout early America .

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DECEMBER 14, 2014

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Family owned and operated since 1989

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History of the

Cigar Store Indian, Wooden Indians, Shop Figures and Wood Statues used as commerical advertisment signpost's for retail and tobacco shops throughout early America .

Our reasearch begins with the dicovery of tobacco and the development of early colonies in both North and South America. We explore old world Artisians as they imigrate to the new world bringing the crafts required to produce the Cigar Store Indian.

Until recently, a great mystery surrounded the History and Origin of Cigar Store Indian, Wooden Indians, Shop Figures and Wood Statues that are a part of American folk sculpture. In nearly all instances, these wooden statues are associated with tobacco shops and when rare exhibits are offered we find that the sculpture is oftern labeled (artist unknown.)

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IndRifle.jpg oldclassic.jpg chief7.jpg chief8.jpg squaw8.jpg squaw9.jpg







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Mayan Indians, tobacco, Christopher Columbus, language, marketing, independence, wooden sailing ships, sidewalk restrictions, Pocahontas, Merchants, Cigar-Store Indians, and much more as we investigate this elusive legend.

        Tobacco a catalyst for Colonial Growth & Dynamics

        Tobacco is native to the Americas, and the practice of inhaling the smoke
of the dried plant material was first documented in the Mayan Indian culture more than 2,000 years ago. The Mayans moved Northward from Central America through the Aztec Empire and eventually took their customs to North American Indian tribes.

        The Arawak Indians of the Caribbean smoked tobacco; Christopher Columbus, during his 1492 voyage, found them smoking "loosely rolled cigars". Men returning from inland expeditions reported with incredible tales, including stories of Indians with "smoking heads". First, Christopher
Columbus in 1492 and later, the Spanish Conqueror Hernando Cortes in 1519 took tobacco seeds to Europe. Less than 50 years later, in the mid-1500's, tobacco had become a valuable commodity in global trade.

        Where in 1561 Jean Nicot gave the plant its' generic name, Nicotiana. Sir Walter Raleigh began the popularization of pipe smoking in Great Britain in 1586, and the cultivation and consumption of tobacco spread with each voyage of discovery from Europe.

        While at this time we see the birth of Professional wood carving in three-dimensional form evolving from this medieval period with single figures and groups for major altarpieces and for niches in large architecturalscreens. During the 16th century these figures assumed a grace of pose
and realism, of detail, that represent a high point in the art of wood sculpture.

        Discovery of the New World brought about a revitalization of European
culture, which would lead to the Industrial Revolution and the pursuit of
raw materials and markets, which in turn would lead to worldwide
European colonialism on a grand scale. The Americans' contribution to
world culture was tobacco as its first CASH Export Crop.

        John B. Rolfe 1585, was one of the first permanent English settlers in Virginia and the first Tobacco Plantation Owner in the Virginia colony. Located at JAMESTOWN around 1610 and is credited with developing the strain of tobacco that became Virginia's staple crop.

        In 1614 he married the Indian princess POCAHONTAS, with her father's
approval the union symbolized a growing trend of Indian submission, colony independence and tobacco as a commercial crop. John Rolfe remained a successful tobacco planter and the following eight years of peaceful Indian relations stabilized the tobacco production in the colony.

        The origin of the wooden Indian dates back to England in 1617, when small wooden figures called "Virginie Men" were placed on countertops to represent tobacco companies. These "Virginians" (the local English renditions of Indians) were depicted as black men wearing headdresses and kilts made of tobacco leaves.

        Commercial transportation for Tobacco cargo from Virginia and Immigration transportation to Virginia was contracted sailing vessels for the long oceanic crossing. Often identified by the brightly polychrome or gilded wooden figurehead, perched prominently on the front or bow of the vessel, under the bowsprit.

        Wood carving, or wood sculpture, is one of the oldest and most
widespread forms of art. Because of the near universality of trees, the relative simplicity of the necessary technology, and the relative durability of the product, wood carving has been practiced in almost all cultures from the earliest times.

        Professional carvers often paid for transatlantic voyage by carving or maintenance of previous carved ship figurehead and mast during the crossing. From approximately 1760 to 1880, however, these figures were often life-size human forms, either realistic portraits of prominent historical
figures or mythical ideal types, carved to stride, point, or look forward with serious mien.

        The great sailing clipper ship along with professional wood carvers profession would soon be in jeopardy. The first transatlantic passage by a steam powered vessel was made in 1827.

        As Steam Ships brought about the decline in sailing vessels the professional carvers turned their attention to new marketing enterprises. Most cigar-store Indians were carved in Eastern seaboard or Midwestern cities by artisans who might never have actually encountered a Native American; The figures look like white men in native garb. "In retrospect Experts believe that the population of Original Cigar-Store Indians made (said to be approximately 100,000 or so around the turn of the century) is now about several thousand or less."

        The Cigar-Store Indian crosses the Atlantic Ocean for two reasons:

        Economics and Sociology. In the American entrepreneurial spirit, some innovative tobacco sellers sought unconventional images for their trade signs to set them apart from the more established merchants.

        The merchant customer often remembered the quality look and feel of specific wooden Indian over the products of the merchant. These Indians would enhance the flavor of high class cigar friendly smoking rooms, increase the appearance of fashionable hotel lobbies or go nicely on the
sidewalk of the local tobocconist shop.

        At the same time, since the carvers were all competing among themselves for the tobacconists' business, each tried to out-do the other in individuality, versatility and depth.

        Artists like the Skillin family, John Cromwell (most noted for his V shape headdress), Thomas Brooks (leaning statues) and Samuel Robb (Indian Maiden) operated full time studio's, employing staff carvers and painters to meet production demands. They put out catalogues of their product lines and frequently updated and expanded them.

        From the mid-18th to the early 19th century the Skillin family of Boston produced preeminent carvers in wood. Ship figure-heads, architectural details, ornamental garden figures, and pediment figures of mahogany came from their shops.

        Simeon Skillin, 1716-78, reputed to be America's first sculptor, received important commissions, primarily for ship carvings, but also for shop signs and portrait busts. Most notable was the shop established by John Skillin, 1747-1800, and Simeon Skillin, Jr., 1757-1806, which enjoyed a nationwide reputation. Their works testify to the contemporary enthusiasm
for allegorical abstraction and graceful neoclassical forms. The brothers' training and example influenced the style of subsequent wood carving in the United States.

        The American-made Cigar-Store Indian were clothed in fringed buckskins, draped with blankets, decorated with feathered headdresses and sometimes shown holding tomahawks or bows, arrows and spears. Their facial features rarely resembled members of any particular American Indian.

        Cigar-Store Indians were designed to capture the attention of the people walking by, informing them that tobacco was sold inside. It is said that the average cigar smoker in America in the late 1800s couldn't read the words "Tobacconist Shop".

        America was quickly becoming a social melting pot of people with diverse origins. The average nineteenth-century American resident lacked a shared common language, and so the sidewalk cigar-store Indian was vital for business.

        Visual trade signs were essentially stand-ins for written sign-posts that might have been incomprehensible to potential customers, many of them immigrants.

        The carvers sculpted Indian chiefs, braves, princesses and indian maidens, sometimes with boarded papooses. Most of these displayed some form of tobacco in their hands or on their clothing.

        Today in the late 20th century the best of the wooden Cigar-Store Indian antique sculptures sell for as much as $100,000.

        The value of any one Cigar-Store Indian is determined by its condition, the artistic integrity of the form and the quality and intricacy of the carving in that order. The decisive factor is the condition of the wood finish.

        A Cigar-Store Indian with its original paint is a almost impossible treasure to find and receives top dollar. Original Cigar-Store Indian paint finishes are extremely hard to find because the sidewalk statues were repainted on a regular basis as a routine maintenance and marketing measure.

        As marketing "sign-posts", they were meant to appear fresh and welcoming, not peeling and faded. The original paint was applied in the sculptors workshop using a polychrome paint utilizing softer brush hairs than found on modern hand-brushes. The technique has produce a look
and feel of satin with an almost translucent glow. The essence of the over-all statue is lighter and more elegant than imaginable.

        Throughout the years of ownership most Cigar-Store Indians experience replications by itinerant painters with a variety paint that had a completely different texture, finish and appeal. All collectors classify finding an original Cigar-Store Indian with original paint as being very unlikely.

        Determining the artistic integrity of a statue is as subjective as judging any piece of sculpture. Each artist has a unique style. Since most of the statues are unsigned, they can be attributed to a particular artist or his shop by identifying characteristic modeling techniques or body positions.

        Some artist elicited creations from quartered ship masts. Constricted by the diameter of the wood, the statues are often spindly. By turning them upside down, you can see the wood's straight grain and count the rings of the log to measure the age of the tree.

        A few artists did used Native Americans as models. Thomas Brooks was
associated by the name "leaners," Wooden Indians resting their elbows on log posts, barrels or oversized cigars. John Cromwell's trademark was a distinctive V-shaped headdress. French Canadian Louis Jobin tended to place his Cigar-Store Indians with the left arm at chest level holding a robe and grasping a bundle of cigars in the right hand.

        The man who probably made more Statues and perhaps most well known of all Sculptors in New York was Samuel Anderson Robb. His attendance of art school laid the ground work for gainful employment lasting for 60 years from 1864 until 1924.

        After his first wife died, Sam Robb began fashioning sweet-faced indian maidens holding roses similar to the kind he designed for his wife's tombstone.

        Where are all the elegant Cigar-Store Indians made by the American sculptors." The value of these sidewalk signs of yesteryear is rising like the cost of cigars themselves because of the passion for cigars and related collectibles.

        Many of these pieces have survived; attributed to the fact that after the First World War, when production stopped and many had been "brought inside" as a result of the 1910 urban-sidewalk-obstruction laws. Countless Indian statues were sold from the commercial streets and slowly disappeared. As America survived the depression most wooden Cigar-Store Indians were broken and burned as firewood.

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An enterprising 19th-century merchant who could afford the purchase price - which could run up to several hundred dollars - would invest in a shop figure to promote hiswares

. While some shop figures were countertop models, the most convincing of these silent hawkers stood just outside the door, and were often mounted on wheels so that they could be rolled in and out. Such full-length figures date to the 1700's, but had their heyday in the mid-to late 1800's; they began to disappear after the turn of the century as electrified signs made them increasingly obsolete.

The products of woodworking shops, these large sculptures were often made by shop carvers who turned their hand to other types of carving as their own trade declined. Different figures signaled different wares - a jaunty sailor was likely to stand in front of a ship's chandlery, for example, while a Chinaman might appear by the door of a tea emporium.

The most common type of shop figure, however, identified the tobacconist's. These figures, initially inspired by the American Indian - who had introduced the exotic weed to European explores - originated in 17th-century England. In America, however, Indian figures were not made in quantity until the mid-1800's. They generally depicted sterotypical chiefs and squaws - with plumed headdresses, tomahawks, or bows and arrows - but as the use of the Indian figure became widespread, carvers turned to more novel subjects, like the clown character, Punch or Uncle Sam, appropriately shown with a bundle of cigars, a snuffbox, or a pipe.

The trade signs and shop figures that merchants customarily placed outside their stores enticed customers to spend their money on an ever-increasing range of goods during the 1800's. When the century opened, the American merchantile system was a specialized one. Since there was no wholesaling, merchants both in cities and in small towns generally made their own wares, and thus concentrated on a single product. The hatmaker crafted and sold hats, for example, while the apothecary purveyed the drugs and remedies he mixed. One exception to the specialized shop, however, was the rural trading post, where farmers bartered their excess produce for necessities ranging from bullets to molasses.

By the mid-1800's, the development of factories and mills, as well as improved transportations systems, enabled manufacturers to distribute products on a national scale. City shops became retail outlets for manufactured goods, and the trading post developed into the bustling emporium known as the country store, which now stocked food delicacies, toilet soap, Paris ribbon, and Brussels lace, as well as more ordinary basics. The keeper of the country store often served as banker and postmaster, and his place of business also might double as a meeting lodge and social club, where townsfolk could gather to discuss politics or play checkers at the ubiquitopus cracker barrel.

Shop figures were not the only form of advertising that was used in early America; no sooner did business become established in this country than did trade symbols begin to appear over doorways and windows. These large, three-dimensional sculptures, the outgrowth of a Eurpopean tradition believed to have originated with the ancient Romans, were initially intended to catch the attention of a predominantly illiterate public by offering visuall, rather than verbal, messages. Bold and self-explanatory, an oversize cutler's knife or a giant locksmith's key could be "read" instantly by any potential customer - even one passing by quickly on horseback or carriage.

Most trade symbols were commissioned by business owners from handcraftsmen. Those carved from wood were generally made by the same workshops that produced ship carvings and shop figures. Metal trade symbols were produced by smiths working in tin, iron, and copper, and beginning in the mid-19th century, metal trade symbols were manufactured in factories that specialized in ornamental cast iron and zinc. Tradesman wanting to advertise their particular talents also craft signs for themselves; it was only natural, for instance, for a farrier to hammer out an enormous horseshoe that he could hang outside his own forge.

Their exaggerated forms and the simple logic of their straightforward symbolism endow these overblown sculptures with a peculiar appeal. The references were intentionally obvious: scissors indicated the services of a tailor, a pocket watch a jeweler, a shoe a shoemaker, a gun a gunsmith. An oversize tooth was the chilling, yet immediately recognizable sign of a dentist, while a mortar and pestle identified an apothecary. Sometimes the design came from a long established symbol, like the striped barber's pole. New forms might also develop with the arrival of an industry; the image of the sheep, for example, became a standard symbol for the numerous woolen textile mills that began operation in 19th-century England.

While many trade symbols were simple sculptural forms, some were quite elaborate, featurnig a variety of mechanical contrivances and moving parts. A tin teapot displayed above the doorway of a teashop, for example, might be plumbed with steam pipes so that puffs of steam would waft from its spout in cold weather. In an equally novel approach, the bespectacled eyes that frequently appeared over opticians' shops were often illuminated with gas lamps in the late 1800s, and then later, as technology developed, with electric lights.

As the form of a trade symbol was generally sufficient to convey information, lettering was seldom added. At the most, a sign might include the name of the proprietor. But while this could be advantageous for a business owner in a busy city-where there might be more than one hatter or one butcher in the same neighborhood-it was hardly necessary in a rural community. In small towns, competiteion among shopkeepers seldom existed, and proprietors were generally already known by name.

 Chie Kramer is a sculptor of exceptional ability. Chie's hand carved Wooden Indians are a museum quality testament to 19th century history. Chie specializes in Native American art and 19th century western sculpture. Chie's cigar store indians and totem poles are perfect for collecting in western art, antique or folk art. Chie is an artist who recognizes both European and Native american histories. His wood carvings spans the gap and help people recognize the disparity and demonstrates the true nature of the remarkable period in history. Hand carved museum quality & antique quality collector statues.

Welcome to Cigar Store Indian Secure Online Ordering Center

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IndRifle.jpg oldclassic.jpg chief7.jpg chief8.jpg squaw8.jpg squaw9.jpg








crossedleg_small.jpg punch.jpg

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More Pictures, click on the links below!

Wooden Indians statues carved from quality hard wood and shipped from Indiana. Wooden Indians statue's range in price from $400.00 to 1000.00 dollars. Price is determined by statue size and design. Shipping ranges from $ 150.00 to 300.00 dollars, price of shipping is determined by statue size and destination. One of Indiana's finest wood sculptors located in the heart of Indiana, in Indianapolis. Hand Carved Wooden Indians for the collector of classical side walk art and folk art.

For Information concerning History or Statues
Please call Chie Kramer at (317) 493-8583

E-mail Chie Kramer for more information

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Resources Sited

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Work Cited & Original Photos from (Artists in Wood) by Frederick Fried 1970

Copright 1970 by Frederick Fried

Crown Publishers, Inc.

419 Park Avenue South, New York, N.Y. 10016

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Work Cited & Original Photos from (Article in Cigar Aficionado Magizine) Titled (Sidewalk Sculptures) by Nancy Wolfson 1995

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Work Cited & Original Photos from (Russell Barnes,collector and actively purchasing antique Cigar Store Indians, P.O. Box 141994,Austin, TX 78714)

E-mail Russell Barnes when you have an antique Cigar Store Indian for sale!

Russell Barnes web site advertise his desire to purchase original Cigar Store Indians!

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Video's of our shop

Welcome to the Cigar Store Indian Statue Shop Video section. Here you can view short video's of our shop and the process of making statues. To view the video's. Just click on the images. thanks for hanging out.

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