Author of contemporary and historical fiction
Liz Liz Liz Liz Liz Liz

Lucky Strike; James Buchanan Duke; James Bonsack; American Tobacco Company

Talking of cigarettes, this may interest you …

The Lucky Strike brand was introduced by R.A. Patterson in 1871 as cut-plug chewing tobacco and later a cigarette.

When reading a scene from ‘A Bargain Struck’ (to come out in Sept 2013) to my Friend in the North, I said that the character, Niall, took a packet of cigarettes from the pocket of his jeans.  I heard her exclaim at the other end of the phone, and I stopped. Surely they didn’t have packets of cigarettes in Wyoming, 1887, she said. Didn’t everyone roll their own in those days?

Aha! She’s thinking no doubt of the handsome cowboy leaning against the fence, rolling his own as he stared at the distant horizon, chisel-jawed, eyes crinkling against the glare of the sun, I thought.

But it got me thinking (and not just about the cowboy!). Could I have forgotten to check the history of packaging cigarettes, I asked myself. There was only one thing I could do –  I opened my online encyclopaedia. It occurred to me that you might be interested in what I found out.

Tobacco has been grown in America since the 17th century. In order to smoke it, the leaves were first rolled in fine paper. As you can imagine, this was laborious and it limited the number of cigarettes smoked. Until …

In 1865, an enterprising man, James Buchanan Duke, began to roll cigarettes and sell them to others for profit. Eventually, …

In 1881, James Bonsack invented a cigarette-rolling machine, which produced over 200 cigarettes per minute – the number a skilled hand roller could produce in one hour. This reduced the cost of rolling cigarettes by 50%, and it cut each cigarette with precision and uniformity. Cigarettes were packaged into tens, and the packet was marked with the name of the company that manufactured them and various logos or designs. Each packet of ten sold for five cents. Not surprisingly, the easier accessibility and cheaper price resulted in an increase in the popularity of cigarette-smoking.

In 1884, the astute J. B. Duke struck a deal with the Bonsack Machine Company, and he began to use rented Bonsack machines and work with a Bonsack mechanic. But …

By the late 1880s, he noticed that the growth rates in the cigarette industry were declining. So…

In 1890, he  banded with 4 other tobacco companies to form a large consortium called the American Tobacco Company. This was the first company to produce cigarettes on a large scale.

So, yes, Niall would have been able to pull a packet of cigarettes from the pocket of his denims.

Darrell Winfield, rancher and model, Marlboro Man from 1968 to 1989