Ice Cream and… Cigars?

By Olivia Taylor ’25

In the days, weeks, and months following the Battle of Gettysburg, journalists and newspaper editors feverishly attempted to recapture the full details, implications, and meaning of the massive fight that had transformed one small, formerly obscure, south-central Pennsylvania town into a household name. While some reporters struggled to ascertain the exact facts of the battle amidst the chaotic aftermath, others wrote with clear political agendas intended to sway the hearts and minds of their readership and, in turn, bolster their respective side’s support for the war effort. Still others searched for meaning in the aftermath through the prisms of religion, world history, and other lenses.  In this mini-series, students will explore the myriad ways that 19th-century newspapers, throughout the North and South, “re-fought” the Battle of Gettysburg, its factual components, and its larger significance in print in the immediate aftermath of the fighting.

Image preview

Image preview

Pictured above is a display of four different cigars offered by the Great Gettysburg Tobacco Company. This display sits in a place one might not expect: The Mr. G’s Ice Cream gift shop. Entering the store, one is met with seasonally appropriate “Life is Good” apparel, Gettysburg sweatshirts, and candles that have been designed to smell like favorite Mr. G’s ice cream flavors, such as salted caramel and black raspberry. These cigars, as well as the other Civil War memorabilia available in the store–which includes everything from watercolor prints of scenes on the battlefield to Gettysburg, PA shot glasses–are tucked away in the back of the store. 

The Great Gettysburg Tobacco Company cigars come in four different “custom blends”– the General, Guardian, Quartermaster, and President, allowing buyers to select the cigar that best suits their personality and fits their desired takeaway memory of their time in Gettysburg. The “Guardian,” described as having a “stronger flavor,” might appeal to someone who sees themselves as a strong protector of their family. The “President,” which is clearly Abraham Lincoln, targets both Abraham Lincoln aficionados and those seeking a general connection to the past through historical face recognition alone, as well as those who might identify as leadership figures. Abraham Lincoln’s historic importance as President during the Civil War, and his site-specific relevance to Gettysburg where he delivered his iconic address, generate an appeal to this cigar. The “General” presumably targets those who pride themselves on their bravery and leadership, and this particular cigar’s description noting its make from the “finest pipe tobacco” lends a refined and distinguished air to it. While there is no description of the flavor profile of the “Quartermaster,” one could assume that this cigar appeals to the casual, self-informed military historian, ones who might think of oneself as a “quartermaster” of their own household.

The company also appeals to the possibility of experiencing history first-hand through these cigars and the sensory experience of smoking them. The company makes sure to note in the product description that a “Union General purchased cigars for his command as they were approaching the Gettysburg battlefield,” implying that those who purchase one of these cigars will be able to, in part, relive the experience that these Union soldiers had: By smoking one of these cigars, you will feel like the soldiers riding into battle. Additionally, these “original Gettysburg cigar[s]” are wrapped in Pennsylvania shade leaf, which further reinforces the unique, place-based emphasis of the Great Gettysburg Tobacco Company, rooting the purchaser–and the very experience of smoking one of these locally sourced cigars–in the historic location that America’s most iconic battle occurred. 

The dichotomy between the sale of Civil War memorabilia alongside lighthearted items like ice cream and “Life is Good” apparel truly plays to the complexity of the consumer culture of Gettysburg. In a town that sees millions of visitors every year, the ability to draw people into local businesses is important; stop by for ice cream and stay to peruse the gift shop, a one-stop shop for all things Gettysburg! In the same trip, visitors can enjoy a scoop of one of Mr. G’s handcrafted ice cream flavors, drinking in the sweet scent of fresh waffle cones and sprinkles, and purchase a “historic” cigar or two through which to remember their visit to town and battlefield some days, weeks, or months after their departure. In so doing, the visitor can “immerse” oneself in those famed first few days of July of 1863 experienced by the hard-fighting soldiers who, too, enjoyed similar cigars on their march into history. 

Digging Death, Selling History: A Unique Take on Historical Walking Tours of the Civil War’s Bloodiest Battle

By Olivia Taylor ’25

In the days, weeks, and months following the Battle of Gettysburg, journalists and newspaper editors feverishly attempted to recapture the full details, implications, and meaning of the massive fight that had transformed one small, formerly obscure, south-central Pennsylvania town into a household name. While some reporters struggled to ascertain the exact facts of the battle amidst the chaotic aftermath, others wrote with clear political agendas intended to sway the hearts and minds of their readership and, in turn, bolster their respective side’s support for the war effort. Still others searched for meaning in the aftermath through the prisms of religion, world history, and other lenses.  In this mini-series, students will explore the myriad ways that 19th-century newspapers, throughout the North and South, “re-fought” the Battle of Gettysburg, its factual components, and its larger significance in print in the immediate aftermath of the fighting.

Pictured above is an advertisement for four different tours offered by “Gravedigger Tours,” which is posted in an alleyway adjacent to the “Great T-Shirt Company,” along the commercial district of Steinwehr Avenue. Through Gravedigger Tours, visitors can explore Gettysburg’s Civil War history in a less traditional way via the focused lenses of four specialized tours. 

Three of the four “Historical Walking Tours” offer something different from your run-of-the-mill ghost tour, concentrating squarely on the specific historical content outlined in their descriptions, rather than on ghost stories and lore. Visually, however, the poster places a disproportionate emphasis on the strictly paranormal “Soldier’s Tour.” Additionally, the macabre name of the company itself projects an overarching focus on the grisly and the ghostly, as well as on emotive history, rather than on history that is strictly factual or filled with nuanced complexities. In an attempt to evoke a certain haunting emotion, this tour description emphasizes the ghastly and grim, and makes sure to especially highlight that Gettysburg was the war’s “bloodiest battle.” 

All four tours’ siloed approach to history and the company’s clear interest in appeals to emotion, death, destruction, and the paranormal distinguish this tourist attraction from the many other competing ghost tours and historical walking tours offered in town. The “Aftermath Tour” touts an exploration of the battle from the perspective of the townspeople of Gettysburg, how they were impacted by the battle, and how they ultimately rebuilt. At the same time, the description notes that those on the tour will see “Civil War medical technology” in addition to amputation demonstrations. This tour comes across as alluring largely due to the somewhat voyeuristic window it provides into the graphic nature of the battle’s destruction, playing more so on morbid curiosity rather than purely historic interest; however, it still seeks to appeal to the emotions of those who are more historically-minded, claiming to “bring back the historical past.” 

The “Women Tour” and “Irish Tour” also distinguish themselves from traditional, comprehensive historical tours, as they play heavily on identity politics to draw people in. Women are portrayed as universally brave and brazen, protecting their families, going into battle, and saving lives. Such a description portrays the battle for Gettysburg’s women as a largely monolithic experience and one that generalizes the roles of women during the war; while there were undoubtedly many courageous women, only telling their stories overlooks the women who struggled to survive and rebuild in the wake of the battle. This tour seemingly targets a very specific demographic of Gettysburg tourists: The empowered female who perhaps laments the absence of women’s stories within the traditional battle narratives and is looking to help celebrate the reclaiming of women’s historical agency through such grandiose tales. 

The “Irish Tour” also appeals to hearts and emotions with its fairly one-dimensional descriptions of the famed Northern Irish Brigade and the Southern Louisiana Tigers, emphasizing their seemingly universal “fearless fighting, sacrifice, and courage.” While members of both Irish units undoubtedly exhibited such qualities, one doubts that this tour will dive deep into the variance within these units, the backgrounds of the men themselves and the challenges they faced due to their ethnicity, their complex political motivations behind taking up arms, etc. This tour would certainly attract the proud descendants of Irish Civil War soldiers from both the Union and the Confederacy; however, in singling out a highly romanticized pair of units and subset of the soldier demographic as particularly glorious and heroic, it is also seeking to appeal to those who have either heard of these famed units before or those in search of an iconic and “uniquely dramatic” tale of two particularly colorful units. A short walk through Gettysburg’s commercial district reveals that the area plays up “selling the Irish” quite a bit. In addition to “The Irish” walking tour, visitors can eat at one of two Irish pubs, and shop in an Irish-them store that sells imported Irish products. The walking tour presumably plays to much of the same demographic as the shops and eateries, and the tour company knows that such a sentimental and popular-history approach to the battle will surely appeal to a core group of Gettysburg tourists. 

These narrowly focused, largely identity-based tours provide intriguing, though siloed, windows into particular slices of the battle and its aftermath. The variation between the types of tours means that there is something for everyone; though they target paranormal enthusiasts with their “Soldier’s Tour,” Gravedigger Tours also offers a dose of “real history” with their other three tours. Indeed, although these hyper-specific tours carve off specific slices of history and appeal to a largely emotive, monolithic connection with the past at the expense of a more comprehensive or more intellectually nuanced narrative, they do allow visitors to identify with particular “players” in the battle, and in doing so, facilitate a deeper dive into one subset of the historical past. Such an approach creates an immersive and memorable experience for a core group of tourists whose imaginations and curiosity about the past just may receive the necessary provocation to continue exploring the history of Gettysburg through additional means.

css.php