The history of the cigar lighter

The History of the Cigar Lighter

The lighter was invented in 1816. The first lighter was called «Dobereiner’s Lamp» (named after its creator, Johann Wolfgang Dobereiner). But his lighter did not use butane or oil as fuel, it used hydrogen. Another difference was that these lighters used platinum as the catalyst (used to start the chemical change of fuel to fire) instead of flint, or a Piezoelectric spark.

Common smokers mostly used matches until the flint lighter became more popular. By 1908, the flint lighter was refined enough and small enough to fit inside a pocket. Special flint made specifically for lighters went into mass production at this time. Obviously, flint is a fraction of the cost of platinum. Using platinum as a catalyst faded out and flint took its place. This lit the kindling which would light the fire that fueled rise of the lighter.

The development of lighters accelerated during World War I.

In the 1920s, lighters were still somewhat of a luxury for smokers. It would be a heavy setback for the average blue collar worker who smoked. But when the 1930s came along, a man named George G. Blaisdell noticed an awkward Austrian lighter that had room for improvement and acted on it.

He improved the ergonomics of the lighter’s case, so it was not as awkward to hold. Then he designed a perforated hood for the wick, which kept the lighter’s flame windproof ! Additionally, he modified the fuel chamber to be more efficient, and added a hinged flip-top lid. And voila ! Zippo entered the world of lighters.

After the emergence of Zippo, other lighter companies started popping up. All the competition caused prices to fall dramatically. Lighters then became a hot novelty and were very collectible. Ronson made their first automatic lighter in the late 1920s but did not gain in popularity, until the rise of Zippo. Dunhill became more aggressive in the production of their lighters. St. Dupont added lighters to their line of products. Also, Colibri began making their first automatic lighters.

The fuel used in most of the lighters in the 1930s was naphtha, an oily liquid that comes from petroleum. In the 1930s-40s, a ground-breaking innovation to the lighter emerged. It is hard to say exactly who conceived of the idea, but Ronson starting producing mass-producing lighters that used butane as a fuel, instead of naphtha.

A technology also started to rapidly develop after the first World War—Piezoelectricity. Like the lighter, Piezoelectricity was invented in the early 1800s, but the full potential of it was only first realized in 1917, by French scientists. Ronson used the same Piezoelectric effect used in this machine, to create an igniter for lighters that transforms energy into an electric spark.

Since the late 1950s, when the Piezoelectric spark was introduced, lighters have been used by almost all smokers. Now, there are more lighter manufacturers than ever. There are also many different flame types. Aside from a natural flame, there are now lighters that produce torch and jet flames and even multi-flames.

Today smokers might choose a different flame type as a matter of preference or because of what they are smoking (pipes or cigars). Cigar smokers usually use torch lighters and pipe smokers would probably prefer a natural flame lighter.

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