The Congress Cigar Company and its leading brand, La Palina, had its beginnings when Samuel Paley emigrated from the Ukraine in the late 1800s.
Arriving in Chicago, Sam obtained work at a cigar factory as a lector – an individual who reads novels, magazines and newspapers to the cigar rollers in the gallery. His interest in the tobacco industry grew, and Sam devoted his personal time to studying cigars, the nuances of their blending and the tradition of their manufacture. His efforts and knowledge were quickly recognized by his employer, and Sam was promoted to roller and then blender.
In 1896 Sam opened a cigar shop of his own in Chicago with an adjacent factory that he named Congress Cigar Company. Their first product was La Palina, in honor of his wife Goldie Drell Paley. Sam was a turn-of-the-century master craftsman and would sit in the window every day rolling cigars. La Palina was his passion, and Sam was a true artisan who believed in quality, excellence and perfection.
Congress Cigar Company moved to Philadelphia in 1910, and Sam’s son, William S. Paley, joined as Vice President of Advertising after his graduation from the Wharton School of Business.
Enamored with radio, William sponsored a small radio show in Philadelphia called “The La Palina Hour”. The advertising increased sales of La Palina and convinced young Paley of the value and potential of radio, leading him in a new direction. William’s subsequent purchase of five radio stations in Philadelphia was the inception of his Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), known as “The Tiffany Network” for the quality of its programming and its journalistic excellence. Ultimately, Congress Cigar was liquidated in 1926, after Sam’s retirement.
William S. Paley learned about quality from his father and through his experience with La Palina and Congress Cigar. Those values would guide the Paleys for the next three generations and would take Bill Paley back to his roots, and the resurrection of the La Palina brand.