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

  • John Jackson:

    Ironically – but sadly – several of the guys used in Marlborough ads died of cancer! (but not Darrell)

    • That’s true. I think that one of the ‘cowboys’ sued Marlboro for being responsible for his death. I don’t remember the outcome fo the case, but I suspect that he will have lost.

  • Always amazes me. The package a product, sell it as sexy (think Don Draper. Oooh, yum) until recently. Forget to mention it’s also addictive and kills you (until recently) and then those who smoked it under the ‘sexy’ promise are not able to seek recompense? Huge debate I know, but… Mind boggles. Interesting post, Liz. 🙂 xx

    • I thought it interesting that packaged cigarettes were around at such an early date in the US. I guess that the cigarette manufacturers would argue that they promised that a person who smoked a cigarette would look sexier, and in a way it was true. It’s just that they forgot to share the knowledge that cigarettes would also kill you as soon as they first realised that that could be the case!

      Many thanks for your comment, Sheryl.

  • When I was a teenager, it was still totally sexy to smoke. Films stars smoked in movies all the time, and the most sexy trick was to light two cigs at once and hand one alight to your partner. We still did this as I grew up. I lived in Africa and tobacco was exceptionally cheap and everyone smoked, bar a few. Of course people were dying from cancer, but we thought that was because “they smoked too much”, not just because they smoked. Cigs and sexy was definitely the in thing for years.

    Fascinating data, Liz. I didn’t know they were packaged that early either. In my historical time, of course, they used snuff or cigars, not cigarettes.

    • Many thanks for your comment, Liz.

      Everyone smoked when I lived in California. I once encountered one woman there who didn’t smoke, who had the temerity not to let us smoke inside her home, and we all thought she was very strange.

      How times have changed!

  • Very interesting!It reminds me of the Bob Newhart record that used to be on the radio a lot in the 60s about Sir Walter Raleigh introducing tobacco to England. Something like you wrap the leaves in paper and stick it between your lips, then you set fire to it and inhale the smoke. The person he was telling it to thought it was crazy. He was right!

    • I LOVE Bob Newhart. He has a dry delivery which is funny in itself before you even get to his material. I’d forgotten that, Jean. Thank you for reminding me.

  • My favourite Bob Newhart gag, Jean! I love it. So funny.

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