Women have been the backbone of J.C.Newman Cigar Company since the beginning, from J.C.’s mother, to his office manage, to his wife.
Hannah Newman: J.C.’s Mother and Bank-roller
Julius Caeser “J.C.” Newman was born in Austria, Hungary in 1875. But that is not really where his story begins.
When the Newman family settled in Cleveland, it was time to embark on “The American Dream” and start earning a living. J.C.’s brothers became tailors and insurance salesmen, but he wanted to become a cigar maker. Though he spoke no English, he learned to recognize the words ‘Help Wanted’ and saw a sign in a cigar shop in 1892. Unfortunately, it was more like an “internship” than a job. He asked his mom for some money to study at the shop as an apprentice, and she gave it to him.
After a few years of practice and perfecting the trade, he was ready. He didn’t have a job but he had a skill. So Hannah stepped in again. She went to the grocery store where she shopped every week and made a deal with their grocer. Through this exchange, she secured an order for him for 500 cigars, and he was in business – inside the house. But not for long. In J.C.’s autobiography Smoke Dreams, he talks about his mother “giving him the boot.”
“…I moved into the house and stored the tobacco in the basement, where the family canned goods were also stored. This turned out to be rather impractical since my mother discovered that her home-made canned goods and jellies were acquiring a strong tobacco flavor.”
She promptly kicked him out and he moved his business into a new building for a $20 a month rent. And thus, the J.C. Newman Cigar Company was born.
Ms. Katherine White: An Important Cog in
the Newman Cigar Machine
Hannah wasn’t the only woman that deserves credit for the growth of J.C. Newman Cigar Company…
As business grew for J.C. in the early 1900s, so did the workload. He placed an advertisement in the paper, searching for a combination bookkeeper and stenographer and ultimately hired a young woman named Katherine White. She had been a schoolteacher in a small town and had moved to the city of Cleveland in search of a more attractive, fun-filled life.
J.C. made her a generous offer – $10 a week, with a promised raise in two-weeks’ time if she proved herself. She proved herself, and some. That two-week time frame came with a monetary raise, as well as a title raise: she was named ‘Manager’ AND ‘Financial Secretary.’ In fact, J.C. trusted her so much that if anyone in the office needed money – including himself – they would need to get the official sign-off from her.
Ms. White was a smart, and sophisticated woman, who carried a gun for protection and became more efficient with each passing year. In his book, J.C. writes, “I sometimes wondered which one of us was really the boss, since I always reported to her…to this day, I owe much of our success to her pioneer effort and ability.”
Gladys Pollasky: A Partner in Love and Business
The dedication page in J.C.’s novel says it all. “I dedicate this book to my wife, Gladys – whose understanding and inspiration made the writing of this story of my life possible.”
J.C. was struck by her from the start. “I made up my mind that I had better get busy quick, and land that girl [before she] had a chance to get too well acquainted with too many competitors.”
Throughout the book, J.C. makes note of the kind of partner Gladys was. She was instrumental in hosting important members of the tobacco industry, throwing parties for members of organizations like the National Association of Tobacco Distributors (NATD), which ultimately helped J.C. purchase tobacco at a cheaper rate to stay in business. She also took the lead in creating an Auxiliary Convention for the wives of the NATD members so they could accompany their husbands to big meetings. This eventually led to the “Women’s Division of The National Association of Tobacco Distributors.” For many years she was the President and Director, all while being a mother to Helen, Elaine, Millard, Stanford.
Women in the Background
Third Generation Owner, President and J.C.’s grandson Eric Newman has said on more than one occasion that the company would simply cease to exist without the women who work there. The finance, HR, shipping, marketing, inside sales, and military departments are heavily comprised of (if not run by) women.
The initials ‘J.C.’ might be at the start of the company name, but without his mother, his bookkeeper, his wife and the amazing staff of women who work at J.C. Newman Cigar Company today, no one would be enjoying our amazing cigars.
The full issue of the 1908 historic cigar publication The Tobacco Leaf that features many J.C. Newman editorial pieces and advertisements.
2020 marks the 125th anniversary of J.C. Newman. Our company’s longevity is due to been unwavering commitment to quality craftsmanship & customer service.