Cigar on Wheels?

THE FIRST MOTORIZED VAN IN HA­VANA WAS USED TO CARRY AND DIS­TRIB­UTE CIGARS. OP­ER­ATED BY H. DE CABAÑAS Y CARVAJAL FAC­TORY, MAKER OF CIGARS AND CIGARETTES, IT REP­RE­SENTED THE PARISI­ENNE BRAND AND IT WAS THE FIRST AU­TO­MO­BILE SOLD IN HA­VANA

Excelencias from the Caribbean & the Americas - - CONTENTS - BY / WILLY HIERRO PHO­TOS / EX­CE­LEN­CIAS ARCHIVES

The first Cuban rail­road was meant to carry sugar and the first mer­chan­dise au­to­mo­bile in Ha­vana dis­trib­uted cigars and cigarettes. This part of his­tory be­gan in the late 19th cen­tury with the ar­rival of the first au­to­mo­bile in Ha­vana.

After the last His­panic-cuban War (1895-1898), Jose Muñoz, who had lived in Paris, re­turned to Cuba and brought the lat­est French trend­set­ter at that mo­ment: the au­to­mo­bile. In De­cem­ber 1898, Ha­vana's streets wel­comed this au­to­mo­bile, which looked like a horse­less buggy.

Sin­gled out by its noisy en­gine, Muñoz's au­to­mo­bile was the show of that time. Muñoz was a busi­ness­man and he not only brought the au­to­mo­bile to Ha­vana in or­der to go out for a ride, but also to sell it as he was the lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the French brand in Cuba.

Parisi­enne was a French maker of bi­cy­cles, ve­loci­pedes and tri­cy­cles, which un­suc­cess­fully launched its first au­to­mo­bile pro­to­type in 1894. It be­gan to mar­ket its motorized ve­hi­cles in 1896. Muñoz sold his first Parisi­enne in 1899 to Guardia y Com­pañía, a com­pany which used it to dis­trib­ute cigars and cigarettes.

H. Cabañas y Carvajal cigar fac­tory was founded back in 1797 by Ha­vana-born Fran­cisco Al­varez Cabañas, at Je­sus Maria Street. His daugh­ter mar­ried to Manuel Gon­za­lez Carvajal in 1825 and in 1848, with the ex­pan­sion of the fac­tory at Lam­par­illa Street, it was called Hija de Cabañas y Carvajal. That's the rea­son why H. de Cabañas y Carvajal was la­beled on the van.

The Parisi­enne van, stronger and might­ier than Muñoz's au­to­mo­bile, could carry up to half a ton (1,000 pounds) and, al­though we know the price tag of Muñoz's car (some 6,000 francs, nearly a thou­sand pe­sos at the time), we know noth­ing about the cost of the van. It fea­tured a 2.9 L en­gine and 4.5 HP.

We do know that H. de Cabañas y Carvajal's lit­tle truck was the third motorized ve­hi­cle in Ha­vana. The sec­ond one was also made in France (by Ro­chet & Schneider brand in Lyon), and it was driven by phar­ma­cist Ernesto Sarra, but that's an­other story to be told while puff­ing on a good Ha­bano.

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