President John F. Kennedy secured for himself 1,200 Cuban cigars just hours before enacting the Cuban trade embargo in 1962. Before signing the embargo, Kennedy requested his head of press, Pierre Salinger, to get him “1,000 Petit Upmanns.”
Salinger first made the revelation to Cigar Aficionado magazine in 1992.
Salinger recalled Kennedy summoning him into his office to see if he could provide "some help" in securing "a lot of cigars" by the following morning. In hindsight, it is evident that Kennedy wanted to stockpile the Cuban products before he banned their import.
“The next morning, I walked into my White House office at about 8 am, and the direct line from the President's office was already ringing. He asked me to come in immediately,” said Salinger.
Kennedy was pleased to learn that Salinger was successful and had gotten him 1,200 Cuban cigars.
Salinger remembers, “He took out a long paper which he immediately signed. It was the decree banning all Cuban products from the United States. Cuban cigars were now illegal in our country.”
The story of Kennedy’s cigars reemerged in 2012 as the United States rolled into its 50th year of the trade embargo with Cuba.
This year, the Obama administration moved to ease the Cuban trade embargo allowing US businesses to open up locations in Cuba in September.
"A stronger, more open US-Cuba relationship has the potential to create economic opportunities for both Americans and Cubans alike," said US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in a statement.
"By further easing these sanctions, the United States is helping to support the Cuban people in their effort to achieve the political and economic freedom necessary to build a democratic, prosperous and stable Cuba."
* Originally published in July 2015.