Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cigar Store Indian

Ever notice the Cigar Store Indian on Main Street?   Today, he can be found in front on the Crystal Arts shop, on the northeast corner of Main and Center Street.  But he wasn’t always located there.
When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, the park featured a shop called “The Tobacconist”.  That shop was located on the west side of the street, between the House of Magic and the Refreshment Corner (now Casey’s corner).  It was approximately where the northern entrance to the Hall of Champions is today.  The shop sold tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, hand carved pipes, and loose leaf tobacco.  In the late 80’s the shop was closed, but tobacco products could still be purchased across the street at the Market House.  The Cigar Store Indian was moved to reflect the change.  Since 2000, tobacco products are no longer sold in the parks, but the Cigar Store Indian remains, providing an ever vigilant watch over Main Street, USA and providing a glimpse of Disney World’s past. 
While this statue helps tell the story of small town USA and fits in with the character and charm of the town in the early 20th century, the symbolism he represents seems to be lost on a younger generation.  Traditionally known as a “Cigar Store Indian” or “Wooden Indian”, statues such as these were used as an advertising figure made to represent tobacconists, much like barber poles advertise barber shops or three gold balls advertise pawn shops.  These figures were three-dimensional sculptures several feet tall, up to life-sized.  But, how did an Indian come to represent tobacco products?  Because of the general illiteracy of the population at the time, store owners would use descriptive emblems to advertise their wares.  American Indians were associated with tobacco since they had introduced the product to Europeans.  The Indian statue would also serve as a visual magnet, drawing the attention of passersby to the store.  
You can find the twin to the Main Street Cigar Store Indian in Frontierland.  That one can be found on the porch in front of Prairie Outpost & Supply.  At one time, this location also sold tobacco products.  

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