Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Cigar Store Indian

I don't know if these statues of Native Americans are true cigar store Indians or not. Perhaps, in this day of easily bruised feelings and political correctness, many people don't even know what a cigar store Indian is. There's a very informative article at the Collecting Channel which says, among other things, that:

The most common shop statue in the 1800s was undoubtedly the Cigar Store Indian. Known as shop figures, these carved wooden statues stood in front of tobacconists' shops in almost every city across North America throughout the 19th century... Today, top examples of antique wooden Cigar Store Indians sell for as much as $100,000, depending upon the condition, artistic integrity, quality and intricacy of the carving.

This smaller guy (above) looks as though he was designed to hold cigars in his right hand -- the function of such a statue in a day when there were no billboards and a quick visual was the clue to a store's goodies.

The photos of the figures in the top three pictures were taken at one of the two old depot buildings out Iron Springs Road; I found the fellow below on our family drive out to Ponderosa Park last week.

It would figure that with prices as high as $100Gs for the Real Thing that the production of cigar store Indians proceeds apace. Consulting The Google produced almost 70,000 links! At this site some 39 different models are offered; another source shows step-by-step pictures of the figures being made by craftsmen in Thailand, of all places.

When my husband and I first moved out to this area in the 80s, there were two workshops producing cigar store Indians on US60 just east of Wickenburg (and one of the local Western curio shops on Whiskey Row had such a sculpt outside on the sidewalk.) The Wickenburg shop we visited was using a pantographic mechanical set-up to shape the figures from a master, which were then painted in different styles and colors. The last few times we made the trip to Sun City via US60, the shops were gone.


Steve said...

Granny, nice post. Enjoyed the pictures.

Granny J said...

So today, as I was reading the local newspaper, I noted that the 2nd Hand Man has a couple of cigar store Indians in stock! Wonder if they're the real, $100G thing...

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