Automobile mileage reminder advertising premium used to track oil changes.  Brass. 1930's(?)​​

It can readily be seen that all of the principal design elements of the Shriner emblem are represented in the Ben Bey design:  the gold crescent, the Sphinx, the pyramids, the star, and the scimitar.  This faithful depiction of Shriner symbolism would suggest some type of affiliation with the Shriners, either on the part of  the designer or the company's owners.  Unfortunately, it is unknown as to whether any of the founders of Ben Bey were Shriners.

The second major design element on Ben Bey products is a "cross pattee" with the words "Ben" and  "Bey" inserted into the two bars of the cross, intersecting one another.  This design element is just as mysterious.  There is no apparent connection between the cross pattee and the symbolism of the Shriners, so that can be ruled out.  Therefore, this Ben Bey trademark must have originated from a different source.  Since the Sheik symbolism was apparently inspired by the fraternal symbology of the Shriners, is it possible that the cross pattee symbol might have had similar fraternal origins?  Interestingly, the logo of the large, national, Catholic fraternal organization known as the Knights of Columbus is based on a cross pattee design. 

Perhaps, one of Ben Bey's founders was a Shriner and another was a Knights of Columbus.  Tantalizingly, according to the 1905 "Book of Chicagoans",   Andrew J. Kennedy was a member of the "Columbian Knights Club".  However, upon further investigation, it does not appear that the Columbian Knights Club was affiliated with the  Knights of Columbus nor did it use the Knights of Columbus cross patee logo. 


Sadly, the questions related to the origins of the Ben Bey name and symbols cannot be definitively answered at this point in time.  Hopefully, however, this page offers up some clues that might help guide future inquiry.  If you have any light to shed on this topic, please complete the "Contact Us" section on the Home Page.  





The name "Ben Bey", which also appears to be Arabic, gives up few clues as to its etymology.  There is no historical figure by that name although "Ben" and "Bey" represent components of many Arabic names.  

There is one intriguing possibility, however, that suggests that the name may have been appropriated or acquired from another company.  In 1898 and 1899, 1-2 years before the introduction of Ben Bey Cigars, a company by the same name was established in California promoting cure-all health products.  The Ben-Bey Company (sometimes advertised with a dash between Ben and Bey, sometimes without it, and sometimes an equal sign), promoted itself extremely heavily in Los Angeles and San Francisco newspapers throughout 1898 and 1899. Then the company appears to have just vanished.  It is possible that, a year later in 1900, when the Ben Bey Cigar brand was being established, Grommes, Kennedy, and Elson may have heard about the "Ben Bey" name and desired to use it.  As a defunct company, they may have just appropriated the name or they may have purchased the rights to use it.  Or, it is possible that this is all coincidence.  Further research is needed to shed additional light.

Ben Bey Cigars     

Looking more closely at the Ben Bey design, however, does suggest some clues as to its origins.  The principal graphic design element is the image of a "Sheik" on a galloping horse, with a gold crescent and star to the left, and a scimitar to the right.  In the background are the Egyptian pyramids and the Sphinx.  Upon investigation, it was discovered that these exact same features are derived from the symbols of the fraternal organization known as the Shriners. The Shriners were established as an offshoot of Freemasonry in the 1880's.  James A. Marples, VII in "The Mystical Symbolism Found in the Emblem of the Mystic Shriners", offers the following account of Shriner symbols:  "The official emblem of the mystic shrine is the Crescent. It is composed of two Royal Bengal Tiger Claws united in a gold setting by a keystone. Inside the Keystone-on the keystone's face-is the head of the Sphinx. Originally behind the Crescent were a pyramid, urn, and star...Depicted above the Crescent is a Scimtar from which the Crescent and Star are suspended." 
     One of the images of the Shriners' emblem offered in this article appears below, along with the Ben Bey label design, for comparison:

The origins of the Ben Bey name and graphic design appear to have been lost in time.  Descendants of Nathan Elson have offered conjecture but no definitive history has emerged.   The Arabic theme of Ben Bey is unmistakable.  However, this fact is rather curious.  The name and design were created two decades before the discovery of King Tut's tomb in Egypt in the 1922 and the subsequent surge of interest in all-things Egypt.  In fact, there are relatively few cigar box designs in existence with an Arabic theme, perhaps because that part of the globe produces no tobacco.