Many of the families who settled in Bohemia came from villages in the Kutna Hora region, about 40 miles southeast of Prague in what is now the Czech Republic. Tobacco was an important part of the economy there. The first tobacco factory had opened in 1812. Cigars were first manufactured in 1844 and cigarettes in 1882. When immigrants from that area came to the United States, they brought with them their cigar-making skills. The first stop for many of these newcomers was what was then the Czech section of New York City, (between Avenue A and 2nd Avenue and from about 60th Street into the 70's). Old timers remembered the perennial smell of tobacco in their apartments. The cigar making bench was a regular part of the furniture for making cigars at home. In Bohemia, cigar making continued to provide a living for a number of the residents from 1876 on. Cigar making moved from the home to the factory. Locals, such as Albert Kovanda, and larger firms, such as Bouder and Lederer from New York City and Griswold in Lakeland, found a reliable and constant supply of workers and built factories to produce cigars.
Albert Kovanda's factory at the junction of Lakeland and
Another important cigar factory was that of M. Foster, which stood on the west side of Ocean Avenue, a short distance north of Church Street. Cigars were made there until 1934 when the building became a robe factory. It was destroyed by fire in 1952.
The M. Foster cigar factory c. 1904
For years, the handmade cigars were produced at the price of $5.00 per thousand. The Patchogue Advance noted in 1877:"Much industry is coming to the north of Sayville." It reports that two factories, a silk factory and Newin's and Griswold's cigar factory, were operating in Holbrook. "Bohemia is a quaint place," it writes, "yet we venture to state there is not another in size in Suffolk County where mirth and good times abound. The principal occupation of the residents is cigar making, with here and there a little farming, but not a week passes without a dance or other pleasant entertainment. Charles Bondy, Esq., of New York City, taking advantage of the strike of the cigar makers in New York, sent out raw tobacco here to be manufactured into cigars, under the supervision of Mr. Sebek, at the residence of the latter, and here about 25 hands are employed, who turn out, we are told, 50,000 cigars per week. Mr. Covanders (Kovanda?) also manufactures the weed here. The Bohemians are a jolly class of people and on Sunday afternoons, they wash down dull care by quaffing off 'ein lager bier.'"
A local cigar factory owner was Frank Huml. Mr. Huml is seated on
the second chair on the left.
The local cigar industry continued until the 1930s when mechanized production did away with the need for hand manufacturing.
1921 Foreman Lederer; H. Hlavac;R.Kovarik; A.Kovarik; unknown; H. Cizek
Cigar making in M. Foster's factory