Annis was born on June 4, 1890 in Austria-Hungary. A Hungarian Jew like J.C. Newman, Annis started in the cigar industry as a traveling salesman. Cigar salesmen were often contractors who traveled from coast to coast, selling multiple brands for multiple companies. Sanchez-Haya Cigar Co., a cigar manufacturer with facilities in Tampa and New York, was one of the cigar companies represented by Annis. By 1917, Annis accrued enough experience in the cigar industry as a salesman to start his own company, the Gradiaz-Annis Cigar Co. J.C. Newman started his cigarmaking career in New York and quickly became an industry giant, rubbing elbows with men, such as Bunny Annis, and starting important lobbying organizations for cigar industry businessmen. Fellow Hungarian immigrants, Annis and Newman likely spoke German together and found great commonality.

First Photo of JC Newman Cigar Factory in Cleveland

Gold Label, 18 Carrot

In 1920, Annis moved his company’s corporate headquarters to Tampa and in 1928 he purchased the Sanchez-Haya Cigar Co. The most well-known Gradiaz-Annis factory is on 12th Avenue and 18th Street in Ybor City. This factory made cigars from 1908 to 1976. Under the Sanchez-Haya brand, Annis produced Gold Label and Shakespeare cigars. Annis became a highly influential member of the Tampa Cigar Manufacturers Association, providing the groundwork for the future linkages between the Newman family and the Cuesta family. Through Annis, J.C. Newman associated with many Tampa manufacturing giants years before the Newman family settled in Tampa.

One particularly eventful interaction between Newman and Annis occurred in the early 1950’s as Newman returned home from a visit to tobacco farms in Cuba. While visiting Annis in Tampa, Newman fell in love with the abandoned 1910 E. Regensburg El Reloj factory and concluded it was the future home of J.C. Newman Cigar Co. The humid climate, efficient transportation facilities, and easy access to Cuban tobacco made Tampa a cigarmaker’s Mecca. The Newman family moved to Tampa in 1954 and became the neighbors of the Gradiaz-Annis Cigar Co.

The Golden Age Ends

In 1963, Gradiaz-Annis Cigar Co. merged with General Cigar Co. The sitting president of Gradiaz-Annis, Morton Annis, the son of Bunny Annis, stayed on as a facilities supervisor and revolutionized General Cigar’s packaging with premium leather and cedar boxes. In 1964, Bunny Annis passed away. General Cigar Co. closed the factory in 1976 and relocated many of the machines and personnel to Kingston, Pennsylvania. The Newman family felt these losses keenly. As the last cigar factory in Tampa, J.C. Newman Cigar Co. seeks to remember the men who built the city through its historic cigar industry.

gold label
cigar factory worker lighting a cigar jc newman shirt
About Holden Rasmussen


Holden Rasmussen is a Museum Associate at the “El Reloj” Factory Museum. His duties include conservation, collection management, gift shop sales, and docent work. He is a new college graduate who has worked and volunteered at museums and archival facilities in different parts of the country. Holden enjoys the American outdoors, French electronic music, Yugoslav militaria, Japanese comics, and Cameroon tobacco.

World’s Oldest Cigars

World’s Oldest Cigars

J.C. Newman Unveils The World’s Oldest Cigars Hand rolled in 1857, the cigars were recovered from the S.S. Central America shipwreckTampa, Fla. – Today, J.C. Newman Cigar Co. is unveiling a new exhibit featuring the oldest known cigars in the world at its historic El...