This is the second one of these I've been asked about this week.
Some perspective might be helpful. Between 1840 and 1960, more than
250,000 cigar factories were established in the United States,
approximately half of them in NY and PA. They were found in every state
and territory. The average life of a cigar factory was less than three
years. The average number of employees was three and a half. Three
people rolled between 500 and 800 cigars a day. Giant factories
employing hundreds of workers capable of 50,000 cigars a day were in
existence by the time of the Civil War. By 1890, cigar production was
6,000,000,000 a year in the US.
Most brands were created by wholesale grocers and tobacconists. For
pennies, it was possible for a drug store, barber shop, pool hall, or
other establishment to have a "custom" brand of cigars, and nearly
2,000,000 custom brands were the result. A retailer could have any
picture or brand name he/she wanted on a box. Many of these were
manufactured in very small quantities.
Your box is a common style called a boite nature, developed around 1900
and still in use today. Stylistically, they are not popular with
collectors because, as RR once said about redwood trees, "if you seen
one, you seen em all." Your box appears to date from the late 1920's
and held light colored cigars. A close look at the revenue stamp may be
able to refine that, as it could be mid twenties. It was obviously
named after Wilbur Wright. Naming boxes after famous and not so famous
people was common. There are thousands of brands named after everyone
from presidents of the US, military leaders, scientists, artists,
sports figures, actors, etc. ...even a Columbia Univ chemistry
professor has a brand of cigars named after him. Why not Wilbur?
Rarely was permission obtained, though in some cases, like Henry George
the economist, the cigars named after him were the actual brand and
blend he smoked. That's rarely the case.
These boxes are neither common nor rare. I've been asked about or
offered about a dozen of them.
Hope this helps.
Tony Hyman, Curator