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#43 Paragon Cigar Factory in York; Supplier to the Klondike Gold Rush

Cigars for Alaska article on Page 9 of the December 3rd 1897 issue of the New Oxford Item, a Weekly Newspaper published in New Oxford, PA

In my post Late 1800s Factory Inspection Reports Assist in Identification of an East Prospect Photo  I wrote about finding these reports in the State Library of Pennsylvania.  For this series on the Top 50 York County Factories at the end of 19th Century, I’m using data from the 10th Report of the Pennsylvania Department of Factory Inspection.

The 10th Factory Inspection Report is for the Department’s year ending October 31st 1899.  I ranked the 479 York County factories by numbers of employees; #50 has 47 employees, on up to #1 with 510 employees.  In the coming weeks, on Monday and/or Tuesday, I’m counting down to the top employer in York County at the end of 19th Century.

The December 3rd 1897 article from the New Oxford Item reports that the Paragon Cigar Factory of York shipped a freight car load of fine cigars; they were bound via Alaska for the initial spring season of the Klondike Gold Rush.  I was also pleasantly surprised in acquiring Paragon Cigar Mfg. Co. stuff via Western Australia.


At #43 in the count down is the Paragon Cigar Factory in York.  I found it strange that nothing was written about this company, or its owner, in Prowell’s 1907 History of York County.  I only found a very few bits of information about this cigar factory.  Besides the factory inspection reports, my two major finds were the 1897 article “Cigars for Alaska” and a 1893 item on eBay.

Polk’s 1899 York City Directory does list the Paragon Cigar Manufacturing Company, with owner Mrs. Kate Bayler, and locates the business on the west side of South Cherry Avenue near King Street.  This factory is actually closer to the southwest corner of South Cherry Alley and West Mason Alley per the following 1903 Atlas of the City of York, PA.  The Paragon Cigar Factory, shaded in light red, in present terms would be on the west side of Cherry Lane behind the present parking garage on the corner of King and George Streets in York.

Section of 1903 Atlas of the City of York, PA, from Plate 9; Published by Fred’k B. Roe (Red Annotations added by S. H. Smith, 2013)

The 10th Factory Inspection Report notes that on April 18th 1899 the Paragon Cigar Factory in York has 54 employees; 22 male and 32 female.  Of these 54 employees, 17 are under 21-years-old, of which 8 male employees and 5 female employees are between 13 and 16-years-old.

In December 1897 the Paragon Cigar Factory of York shipped a freight car load of fine cigars.  They were bound for Seattle, Washington, whereupon in the spring of 1898 they would be shipped via ocean-going steamer to Skagway, Alaska; the gateway to the Klondike Gold Rush.  Howard Clifford summarized the 1897 start of this gold rush in his book “The Skagway Story.”

On July 15, 1897, the SS Excelsior steamed into San Francisco laden with a score or so of prospectors and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gold, followed a couple of days later by the SS Portland, which docked in Seattle with its famed “ton of gold.”  The country, in the midst of a depression, went gold happy—especially Seattle and San Francisco.  The Klondike gold rush was on.

For many years, I’ve collecting eBay items related to sections of my in-progress autobiography; some have already showed up in these posts.  I’ve occasionally turned to eBay as a last resort in research for YorksPast posts.  I was amazed when I found and purchased a Paragon Cigar item; the following 1893-postmarked envelope sent from York to Boston.

January 4th 1893 Postmarked Envelope from Paragon Cigar Mfg. Co., in York, PA to Boston, Mass. (S. H. Smith Collection)

I was even more amazed when the 1893 envelope arrived; it came from Western Australia.  I was curious how this letter, sent from York to Boston, ended up in Australia.  I wrote the seller of this item to find out if there is an associated story; I’ll post it, if I get a reply.

Part of Mailing Envelope; which contained Paragon Cigar Mfg. Co. eBay Purchase

In my count down of the 50 top factories in York County at the end of 19th Century, there are 12 cigar factories represented.  Only one cigar factory shows up in the top 15; do any of my readers care to guess where this factory, that made cigars and also cigar boxes, was located in York County—I’ve already had a reader guess, Red Lion; which is not the correct answer in 1899.

#43 Paragon Cigar Factory in York, with 54 employees, is the fourth cigar factory in my count down of the top 50 York County Factories at end of 19th Century.  Previous cigar factories that have made the list include:

Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts