During Spokane’s boom era of the 1880s through the early 20th century, downtown Spokane was packed with workers, mainly men, living in single-resident occupancy buildings, called SRO hotels, when not at their jobs in construction, factories, retail, hospitality and service businesses. Cooped up in tiny bedrooms, they sought out entertainment after work, often a beer from a Spokane brewery and a locally made hand-rolled cigar, like the ones produced by the Cuban Cigar Co. or Havana Cigar Manufacturing.
The production of cigars had spread to the U.S. mainland from Cuba and other Caribbean island nations in the late 1800s. Popularized by figures like Ulysses Grant, Franz Liszt, Sigmund Freud and King Edward VII, cigars became a recreational pleasure.
Small hand-rolling shops popped up in larger cities, including several in Spokane. By 1905, there were 80,000 rolling operations in the United States.
The Mint bar, in business from about 1893 to 1907 at 305 W. Main Ave., was owned by William G. Cody, who lived above the bar. The establishment benefited from being next door to the Great American Resort, a variety theater, and across the street from Chinatown, where bored men could find fan-tan gambling, prostitutes and, until crackdowns in the 1890s, opium dens.
Both President Grant and Sigmund Freud died of cancers of the mouth.
The Mint billiards room and cigar store at Main Avenue and Bernard Street was owned by William G. Cody, possibly the man in the apron, and remained in business from about 1893 to 1907.
The parking lot at 305 W. Main Ave. was once the site of the two-story Main Hotel, which was built shortly after the 1889 fire in Spokane.