Cigar-store Indians—those once-ubiquitous carved statues that advertised tobacco shops—began disappearing from U.S. sidewalks more than 50 years ago. But on my ramblings around San Francisco I’ve taken note of their 21st-century folk-art equivalent: cigar men. Not men with cigars: cigar-shaped men. They’re slightly surreal and completely wonderful.
Here’s a studious-looking specimen in front of International House of Wine (no website), in the theater district at 395 Geary Street:
There’s a Turkish-stereotype (or Shriner-stereotype) cigar man in front of Dean’s Fine Cigars at 715 Market Street.
And on the other side of the door there’s an endangered cigar-store Indian gazing skyward.
I think he’s saying, “Oy vey—it’s come to this?” On behalf of all European-American usurpers, I apologize.
I couldn’t help noticing that the skinny yet muscular arms of the fez-wearing cigar bear a strong resemblance to those of International House of Wine’s cigar man. The same artist, perhaps?
There’s a clue on the base of the Dean’s sign:
It turns out that Back to the Drawing Board has done a lot of inventive advertising art in San Francisco and Grass Valley. Until I checked out his (her? their?) website, I hadn’t realized that the non-cigar sidewalk sign in front of Creative Marketing Concepts, at 572 Market Street, came from Back to the Drawing Board.
Sometimes a cigar is not just a cigar. It’s a fountain pen!
The cigar men seem to have replaced a more realistic genre of street advertising, as seen in this photo I took in 2009 on Third Street near SFMOMA.
Here’s his weird yet worthy replacement, in front of Zain’s Liquor:
Well, helloooo, Mr. Disco Collar with the soulful eyes!
Are these artifacts unique to San Francisco, or do other cities have them, too?
For other examples of folk-art advertising signs, see my post about muffler men.