Prior to the 1800's, cigars were typically packed in boxes, crates, and barrels. Sometime after the early 1800’s cigar manufacturers started using smaller, more portable boxes that we recognize today. During the great depression there was an increase in the popularity of handmade instruments as an affordable option.
According to Wikipedia, trace evidence of cigar box instruments exists from 1840 to the 1860s. The earliest known illustration of a cigar box instrument is an etching copyrighted in 1876 of two American Civil War soldiers at a campsite. The etching clearly shows the brand "Figaro" on the cigar box.
Today the cigar box uke is still popular with do-it-yourself minded folks who get as much satisfaction from making their ukes as they do playing them - And you never know where it can lead! The eight time Grammy winner George Benson started his career as 'Little Georgie Benson, the Kid From Gilmore Alley,' playing a cigar box ukulele on street corners. Roy Clark The great country guitarist and banjo player (and Hee-Haw host) first played an instrument his father made from a cigar box and ukulele neck with four strings.
Those who like the look and the Vibe of the cigar box uke but don’t want to build one; options like our Eddy Finn Cigar Box uke are available.