Cigar City Timeline

Italian and Cuban Clubs

The Italian Club and the Cuban Club remain vibrant parts of the Ybor City community. Imported tile, stained glass, and murals still adorn the interior of the Cuban Club, reminding current members of the club's roots as a mutual aid society. The Italian Club hosts an annual event called Festa Italiana that features authentic taste, sights, and sounds strait from Italy. Click on Audio to hear some Salsa Music.


Population in Tampa is Approximately 800

Henry B. Plant

A tycoon by the name of Henry B. Plant arrived in Tampa. Plant thought Tampa had a future as a city that would connect people and business by land and sea.

Railroads and Steamships Come to Tampa

Plant brought his railroad and steamships to Tampa, and built a grand hotel on the Hillsborough River. By 1901, Plant's system connected Tampa to Cuba by ship and to the rest of Florida and the Southeast by rail.

The Cigar Industry Comes to Tampa

Two friendly business competitors, Vicente Martinez Ybor and Ignacio Haya, met in Tampa. They were looking for a new location for their factories. Ybor and Haya had owned cigar factories in Cuba and Key West. Labor unrest and natural disasters caused them to look for a new location for their factories. Ybor and Haya liked what they saw in Tampa, and appreciated the opportunity offered by Henry Plant’s railroads and shipping line.

The First Cigar Factory in Tampa

Haya and his partner Serafin Sanchez opened the first cigar factory in Tampa.

Ybor's First Cigar Factory

Later that year, Ybor opened his first factory and began a development company “with the hope of providing a good living and working environment” for his employees. Ybor envisioned building homes and company stores that his employees would purchase from him out of their factory wages.

El Lector

A curious custom born in Cuba’s cigar factories followed cigar workers to Tampa. The workers employed ‘lectores’ (readers) to read to them as they worked. In the morning they would listen as ‘el lector’ read in Spanish from newspapers from around the world, and in the afternoon they heard stories from famous novels. Many cigar workers received little formal education but were well informed about the events of their times.

Yellow Fever

Between 1887 and 1888, Tampa experienced the worst of its yellow fever epidemics. The cause of yellow fever was still unknown. For a long time, the local press refused to acknowledge that the disease affecting more than one-third of Tampa’s 3,000 residents was yellow fever. Big projects were in the works in Tampa. Jobs, money and immigrant workers were streaming into the community. In December of 1888, the local newspaper, the Tampa Journal, reported that “Tampa is healthy and prosperous,” in spite of the fact that over 1,000 cases of yellow fever had been treated.

Jose Martí

With the arrival of Cuban cigar rollers, Tampa became a headquarters of political and revolutionary activity. Cubans in Ybor City and West Tampa plotted a revolt against the Spanish Colonial government. Cuban revolutionary leader Jose Martí visited Tampa more than 20 times.

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