Sandburg's Hometown

October 7, 2013

Henry Mayer Cigar Store, Galesburg, Illinois, ca. 1879

Henry Mayer Cigars, 129 E. Main St., Galesburg, IL, ca.1879 

Cigars and Consumption

By Barbara Schock

 A favorite gathering place for young Carl Sandburg and his friends was the Schultz Cigar Shop at 441 East Berrien Street. Julius Schultz was seldom on the premises. He would be away, selling his cigars to the stores and saloons of the Galesburg area. He called his cigars Private Stock which may have made the cigars seem more exclusive.

 Cigar smoking was very popular in the 19th century. Local manufacture was common because the process of making cigars was a hand operation. Later the manufacture of cigars became automated and the small makers disappeared.

 In the early 1890s there were four other cigar manufacturing shops in Galesburg. Henry Gonsert was located at 118 East Main Street and Henry Mayer at 230 East Main Street. The Slaven Brothers made cigars at 647 South Seminary Street and George Sanderson had a cigar store on the Public Square.

 When Schultz was in his store, he did not object to the presence of Sandburg and the other boys. They usually gathered in the back part of the store. This was the place the cigars were manufactured by “Nig” Bohnenberger. If asked, he would explain he was called “Nig” because he was “dark-complected.” His parents had conferred his nickname upon him.

 Mr. Bohnenberger was fairly well informed, because he was an avid reader of the daily newspapers. He formed opinions on the issues of the day. He would express them as he rolled the cigars. The boys listened avidly to his pronouncements. They also did a lot of singing in the back of Schultz’s store. If the store was closed, the boys would hang around and talk and sing while standing or sitting on the sidewalk in front.                        

The boys enjoyed watching “Nig” sort the tobacco leaves and roll them into cigars of a uniform shape. One of the final steps of the process was the wetting of the wrapper leaf with Mr. Bohnenberger’s saliva. Then the wrapper was tightly fitted around the cigar, to assure it would remain firm.

 Mr. Bohnenberger was afflicted with consumption, the disease known as tuberculosis. Its progress became more and more apparent. With increasing frequency, he was wracked with coughing spells. Eventually, the sickness claimed him.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity