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An Interview with Edgar M. Cullman Sr.

Chairman of the Culbro Corporation
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Bill Cosby, Autumn 94

(continued from page 1)

Cullman: His father thought he was crazy, but he said "I think we can grow tobacco in Connecticut." He liked the taste of broadleaf, which was growing there; he always thought it was great tobacco. So he started growing tobacco in Connecticut. We enlarged our horizons and at some point we grew about 1,100 acres. Then we bought General Cigar in 1961 and then we acquired American Sumatra. At one point, we grew 1,800 acres of Connecticut wrapper.

C.A.: You farmed or you owned?

Cullman: We owned and farmed 1,800 acres. And today the valley grows 1,000 acres altogether. The change has been rather dramatic.

C.A.: You mentioned that you bought General Cigar in 1961. How did your father go from being a grower to form a complete entrepreneurial company with brands and so forth. How did that happen?

Cullman: Let me go back a little bit in history. When I finished my service in World War Two, I said to my father that I wanted to go to work in the tobacco business. I never smoked. In fact, my grandfather bribed me that if I didn't smoke or drink by 21, he would buy me a car. He died when I was 20; I never got the car. I was very upset by that.

C.A.: You never smoked or drank until your twenty-first birthday?

Cullman: I was a very honest fella. When I said I wanted to work, Dad said, "you've got to learn the business." He wanted me learn how to roll a cigar and learn how to grow tobacco.

At that time, there was a cigar company in New York called H. Anton Bock. They made Bock Panatellas. It was a great little company on Second Avenue, between 65th and 66th streets. I would go there at 6 A.M. and set up at the bench. First, I learned how to sort the tobacco, how to shake the tobacco, the Cuban tobacco that came in, how to open up the bales, how to then case [moisten] the tobacco so you could use it. How to count the leaves. Then I had to sit down at a bench and learn how to roll a cigar. I never made money or my living out of that, but I learned how to roll.

C.A.: When was that?

Cullman: That was 1944. For three days a week I would be at the bench learning how to roll cigars and for two days a week I would go up to Hartford and help on the farm.

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Comments   2 comment(s)

Ed Harvey — Auburn, WA, United States,  —  August 31, 2011 3:19am ET

Mr, Cullman you will be missed, and it would have been interesting to see, an updated interview, since things have changed quite a bit since this one was done, along with the loss of smoking rights, and the Cigar Industry in general...

Derek Wotton — Deltona , Florida ,  —  July 21, 2013 6:56pm ET

Wow a look into the past!

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