Cigars in the White House
Written by James Payne

Friday, 17 July 2009

User Rating: / 1

celebrities and smokingsmoking bans
tobacco legislation

The 21st president, Chester Arthur, was notably the Paris Hilton of presidents, enjoying lavish parties, expensive clothing, and vats of champagne. He also enjoyed a healthy dose of cigars. Not much can be attributed to Chester, but some say he did bring a certain elegance and prestige to both the White House and cigars.

Following on the heels of Chester Arthur was the twenty-fifth big wig, William McKinley, who was said to be a closet smoker. There exists no portrait or photo of him with a cigar, and no one ever saw him smoking in public. However, the White House Chief Usher claimed he was obsessive compulsive and constantly smoked. That is up until his eventual assassination in 1901.

Number twenty-seven, William Taft, also smoked in the White House, though he eventually gave it up. After Taft there came William Harding (president 29),  who enjoyed golfing and cigar smoking and hauled his own humidor to the White House from his home. Aside from smoking cigars, he also tried to answer every letter sent to the White House, which is probably why he went down in history as both an avid smoker, and not such a great president.

Following William Harding came Herbert Hoover, who shouldered the Great Depression, and probably tried to keep his own depression at bay with more than a few quality cigars. After the Great Depression, Calvin Coolidge also played it cool, bandying a cigar in his mouth and mumbling behind it during disagreements with his opponents, bringing to mind the Batman nemesis, Oswald Cobblepot (the Penguin).

Obsessed with size, Coolidge is said to have rejected many cigars offered to him. Whenever someone would offer him a stogie, he would sniff it, look it up and down, and pull out his own, bigger cigar and light up. It was not uncommon to see him smoke three 12 inch cigars in an evening.

Dwight Eisenhower was another notable president who smoked cigars, bringing male guests into a special room to have drinks and smoke cigars. Richard Nixon continued this tradition, bringing guests into the “Green Room”, but was the last to do so.

Prior to Nixon of course was John F. Kennedy, who loved to smoke petite Coronas, especially H. Upmann. While some will debate the story, it is said that Kennedy sent his press secretary out (whether to Cuba or just into the streets) to purchase as many as he could prior to enacting the Cuban Embargo. In fact, Kennedy wanted to exclude cigars from that embargo, but there was too much pressure from Ybor City farmers, and he decided to include them.

Technically Nixon was the last to “smoke” cigars in the White House, but Bill Clinton was seen with many unlit ones in his mouth, and as Monica Lewinsky can attest, other places as well. 


0 # William and WarrenSam Hessa 2009-07-17 11:02
William McKinley supposedly put his cigar aside before being photographed, saying he didn't want the youth of Americal to see their president smoking. And, BTW, it's Warren HArding, not William.

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0 # Steven Fowler 2009-07-17 13:01
Hoover shouldered the depression? If doing nothing is shouldering, then you are correct.

Also, Hoover followed Coolidge and preceded Roosevelt.

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