Before books on tape, before Muzak, the lectors read in a loud, clear voice to the cigarmakers of Ybor City.

In the early 1900s, cigars were rolled by hand, created by artisans. The factory owners, whether from noblesse oblige or from a desire to retain the best employees, provided a fairly unusual perk:

Every day, the lector would come in with a selection of the day's newspapers and great literature. He would walk up onto a platform near the center of the factory, clear his throat, and begin to read in a voice that carried to the back walls. While they quietly rolled cigars, the workers could stay in touch with current events, politics, and literature. They could let their minds play while their hands labored.

The factory owners occasionally exercised censorship over the selection of materials. One lector, for example, was told not to read anything by Victor Hugo because it tended to stir up only bad feelings about factory owners.

Ferdie Pacheco's paintings of Ybor City include several scenes with a lector:

Most cigars are now made by machine, and the lectors of Ybor City have almost been forgotten. It's worth remembering that, before Muzak, companies once provided streaming audio to help their employees stay better informed about the world around them.

Lec"tor (?), n. [L. See Lection.] Eccl.

A reader of lections; formerly, a person designated to read lessons to the illiterate.


© Webster 1913.

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