Explorer Christopher Columbus is generally credited with the introduction of tobacco to Europe. Three of Columbus’s crewmen during his 1492 journey, Rodrigo de Jerez, Hector Fuentes and Luis de Torres, are said to have encountered tobacco for the first time on the island of Hispaniola, in what is present day Haiti and the Dominican Republic, when natives presented them with dry leaves that spread a peculiar fragrance. Tobacco was widely diffused among all of the islands of the Caribbean and was therefore also encountered in Cuba where Columbus and his men had settled. His sailors reported that the Taínos on the island of Cuba smoked a primitive form of cigar, with twisted, dried tobacco leaves rolled in other leaves such as palm or plantain.
In time, Spanish and other European sailors adopted the practice of smoking rolls of leaves, as did the Conquistadors, and smoking primitive cigars spread to Spain and Portugal and eventually France, most probably through Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Portugal, who gave his name to nicotine. Later, tobacco use spread to Italy and, after Sir Walter Raleigh’s voyages to the Americas, to Britain. Smoking became familiar throughout Europe—in pipes in Britain—by the mid-16th century.
Spanish cultivation of tobacco began in earnest in 1531 on the island of Santo Domingo. In 1542, tobacco started to be grown commercially in North America, when the Spaniards established the first cigar factory on the island of Cuba. Tobacco was originally thought to have medicinal qualities, but there were some who considered it evil. It was denounced by Philip II of Spain and James I of England.
Around 1592, the Spanish galleon San Clemente brought 50 kilograms (110 lb) of tobacco seed to the Philippines over the Acapulco-Manila trade route. It was distributed among Roman Catholic missionaries, who found excellent climates and soils for growing high-quality tobacco there. The use of the cigar did not become popular until the mid-eighteenth century, and although there are not many drawings from this era, there are some reports.
In Seven Years’ War it is believed Israel Putnam brought back a cache of Havana cigars, making cigar smoking popular in the US after the American Revolution. He also brought Cuban tobacco seeds which he planted in the Hartford area of New England. This reportedly resulted in the development of the renowned Connecticut Wrapper.