Over the past two years, J.C. Newman Cigar Co. has embarked on a multimillion-dollar renovation of the company’s historic El Reloj cigar factory, first built in Ybor City in 1910. And while the ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on January 28th of this year, J.C. Newman will be celebrating the factory’s 111th anniversary tomorrow, March 31st.
Festivities are scheduled to begin at 10am, where cigar lectores will return to their stations for the first time in 90 years. Lectores were first introduced to cigar factories in the mid-1800s, where factory workers would be entertained with the live reading of various texts, including classical literature and political propaganda; the latter of which was blamed for inciting the Tampa cigar makers’ strike of 1931, and the subsequent ban of factory lectores that same year.
As part of J.C. Newman’s renovations, an area has been built to resemble the factory’s hand-rolling gallery of old, complete with a lector podium.
“Honorary lectors including Patrick Mantiega (publisher of La Gaceta and grandson of a lector) and Richard Gonzmart (fourth generation owner of the Columbia restaurants) will be reading to J.C. Newman’s cigar rollers. Members of the public are welcome to watch and listen.”
J.C. Newman will also be offering free tours of the factory and special “1910 prices,” where those that make gift shop purchases can “buy a special ‘El Reloj’ cigar for the 1910 price of 5 cents.”
El Reloj was built by E. Regensburg and Sons in 1910 and designed for 1,000 cigar rollers. It was then said to be the finest factory in the world and embodied every luxury known to modern commercial construction. Translating to mean The Clock—dubbed for its iconic clock tower—El Reloj was purchased by J.C. Newman in 1954 and has continued cigar production ever since.