Stogie: Cigar of the Conestoga Wagoneer

Today, the word “stogie” is slang for a cigar, technically referring to a cheap or roughly made one.

To trace the meaning of stogie, you have to go back to the 1700s and 1800s when covered wagons were used to transport goods and people across the American frontier. A specific wagon design with a curved bottom eventually became known as the “Conestoga Wagon,” taking its name from an area along the Conestoga River Valley in Lancaster County. Some sources say that its creation was near the confluence of the Conestoga River and the Little Conestoga Creek.

The first recorded use of the name dates back to December 31, 1717, when James Logan, William Penn’s former secretary, carefully recorded in his account book that he bought a “Conestogoe Waggon” from James Hendricks. Logan needed the special wagon to bring loads of furs from his trading post on the Lancaster frontier to the city and to carry various goods back to “Conestogoe.” Click here to read more about the Conestoga Wagon.

Conestoga Wagon on display at the Conestoga Area Historical Society

As these wagons grew in popularity, their name slowly became associated with characteristics of the drivers just as much as the wagons themselves.

Borrowing from the second half of “Conestoga,” the word stogie initially referred to the thick, durable shoes that wagon drivers wore. That still stands as the primary definition of the word today. But eventually, “stogie” began to shift to other common attributes of the wagon drivers, such as the cheap cigars they were often seen smoking. Characterized by their long, slender construction, these cigars were a favorite of wagon drivers from all corners of the country, not just Conestoga.

The term “stogie” first appeared in print in the early 1800s and quickly became a popular way to refer to any cigar. By the mid-1800s, stogies were mass-produced in factories and available to people of all income levels.

Stogies were a staple of Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. The fighting men smoked stogies to help them relax and cope with the stress of battle. Stogies were also popular among working-class people, who appreciated their affordability and durability.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, stogies were still widely smoked, but they began to lose popularity to more expensive and refined cigars. Today, the word stogie is almost universally avoided by modern cigar companies, likely due to the word’s connotations of poor quality.

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