A reader sent us a picture of an item in an auction catalog that looked like a cookie jar decorated with racing horses, but it had a strange lid. What else could it be? Why horses on a cookie jar? The lid and the size, 7 inches high, are clues.
The jar is a humidor, a container for cigars, cigarettes, pipe tobacco and even cannabis that keeps the tobacco moist and shields it from sunlight, insects and damage. Humidors were necessary and very popular in the late 1880s to early 1900s, when smoking cigars was a sign of masculinity. Most vintage humidor cases are made of attractive wood and lined with Spanish cedar, a wood that holds moisture and does not warp. It also has a pleasant odor and discourages tobacco beetles.
But humidors were also made of glass, ceramics, metal or even plastic. The humidor pictured is marked with an “M” in a green wreath, the trademark used by the Morimura Brothers Company, a New York City import firm that operated from 1911 to the 1950s. The humidor is called the Kentucky Derby Scenic. It was probably made by Noritake, a Japanese company.