Cigar-Smoking Icons: John F. Kennedy

Cigar-Smoking Icons: John F. Kennedy


John F Kennedy, like Winston Churchill, was recognised to be one of the greatest cigar-smoking statesmen of all-time. Known as the 35th president of the United States, J.F.K. was at the centre of politics in the 60s until his untimely assassination in 1963. During his presidency, he experienced one of the most turbulent years in American politics, he was at the epicentre of the Cuban missile crisis, Nuclear test-ban treaty, and the Alliance for Progress in Latin America. But aside from politics, he was also famous for his love for smoking Cuban cigars. In this article, we will discuss the many quirky ways J.F.K. and Cuban cigars have such a strong link to each other.


THE 35TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES - John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts on May 1917 to two famous parents - Joseph Kennedy Sr, a businessman and politician; and Rose Kennedy, a philanthropist and socialite. Right from the bat, the young J.F.K. was thrown into the world of politics and fame. But it’s wrong to credit all his success to just his parents. J.F.K. was a highly accomplished individual - having attended Harvard University, surviving as a Navy marine and even winning a Pulitzer Prize for his novel - he had truly demonstrated his true capabilities as a multi-talented individual. And before you know it, J.F.K. beat Richard Nixon in the major election in 1960, which led him to become the 35th President of the United States.

During J.F.K.’s time in office, he was highly involved in politics, rubbing shoulders with world leaders as well as the mob, who were notorious for much of the organised crime at the time. J.F.K. was known for his strong views against communism, resulting in conflict among other nations - particularly Cuba, as he clashed with the Cuban revolutionary, Fidel Castro.

Apart from his involvement in politics, J.F.K. was also known to be a young, handsome and extremely charismatic man. Him and Jackie Keneddy were more than just the presidential family but were even seen as celebrities by the press. However, though the Kennedy family may have had the archetype for the perfect all-American family, J.F.K. was also known for his alleged affairs with public figures such as Marilyn Monroe and Judith Exner.

john f kennedy cigar icons cuban missile crisis

John F. Kennedy and his advisors.


CUBAN EMBARGO - In 1962, Cuba was seen as a huge threat to the US, not just because of their communist politics, but also, Russia had been openly supplying Cuba with their arms – including soviet missiles, patrol boats and more. So, J.F.K felt he needed to impose some restrictions in order to take control of the situation. But before he set up the embargo, he needed to make sure he got his hands on his favourite Habanos, so he instructed his right-hand man ‘Pierre Salinger’ a critical mission – to obtain at least 1,000 premium cigars from Cuba. As impossible as it sounds, Salinger successfully collected 1,200 puros just before the embargo was placed. We would expect he took home a lot of H. Upmann Cigars as it was known to be J.F.K.’s favourite. Unfortunately, the ‘Petit Upmanns’ which was known to be the president’s ‘go-to’ cigar, had been discontinued. But if you do want to try some other fantastic cigars from the brand like the H. Upmann Connoisseur A Cigar, feel free to explore our Cuban cigar shop.



JFK'S HUMIDOR AUCTION - In 1961, Milton Berle – famous cigar-smoker and comedian – gifted J.F.K. a one-of-a-kind walnut Cigar Humidor engraved with the words ‘To J.F.K. Good Health – Good Smoking”, as a present to commemorate the President’s inauguration day. With no doubt, that piece of antiquity is a piece of history. To create the humidor, Berle was charged about $800 by Alfred Dunhill of London to make and engrave the box. Once J.F.K. was assassinated, it was auctioned at the Sotheby's auction. Mr Berle was there to try and buy it back; however, Marvin Shanken of Cigar Aficionado outbid him for $574,000.


ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER - J.F.K., an exemplar of a true cigar-loving statesman, in fact, has an expansive link to today’s famous cigar smokers. Sargent Shriver, J.F.K.’s brother-in-law, adopted Arnold Swarzenegger after he had married his daughter, Maria Shriver. Prior to Arnold’s first cover photo on Cigar Aficionado and before he became a governor, it was Sargent Shriver that first handed Arnold his first-ever premium cigar at a dinner party. Since then, Arnold had forged a love for Cuban cigars, with a daily ritual of smoking one-to-two stogies per day.


For more interesting articles about the world of Cuban cigars, check out our Cigar Blog:

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