Cigar stories have to start somewhere. This one starts in a cigar factory, naturally.
Samuel Paley was a Ukrainian immigrant working as a lector, which was a critical job in the making of cigars. While rollers would put hundreds of cigars together over the course of a day, the lector would read to them, keeping them entertained. Throughout the 1900s, people generally relied on shop radios in lots of communal workplaces. But before there was “Z103: The Beast!” there was a need for something else to fill the silence. The lector filled in the gap, reading from a decent variety of sources – the newspaper, novels, and more. If you’ve got to read for hours on end, you’ll need a healthy stack of material.
Anyhow, Samuel Paley was an enterprising man, and eventually he got into a position to open his own cigar business. The year was 1896, and the Congress Cigar Factory opened its doors in Chicago and started turning tobacco leaf into cigars. Mr. Paley was colloquially known as “Mr. Sam.” His wife, Goldie, served as the model in Spanish dress for the cigar boxes, and gave rise to the brand name as well: "La Palina," which essentially means the “female Paley.” Perhaps they thought the family name sounded nice when rendered in a Spanish style. If so, we can’t disagree with that.
The years would go by and the company would wax and wane, fading into the long list of defunct heritage cigar brands remembered fondly by some. Fortunately for Mr. Sam, his kids were quite enterprising as well. In fact, his son William S. Paley founded CBS. La Palina was actually one of the early supporters of sponsored broadcasting, putting on Kate Smith's first CBS radio network program Kate Smith and Her Swanee Music. Don’t know who she is? They called her the “First Lady of Radio” in the 1930s, and if you crank up that classic recording of “God Bless America,” you’ll her belting away in fine style. The company also offered the La Palina Hour radio show.
Good tunes and good smokes – all we’re missing is a drink and we’re all set, right?
Eventually Mr. Sam’s grandson, William C. Paley, would revive the La Palina name around 2010 and get back to the family’s roots making cigars. With a few appearances already on Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 list for the La Palina Classic and the La Palina El Diario, the company is off to an excellent start.