Category Archives: Pipe and Tobacco Historical Documents

Keyser Hygienic Pipes Pamphlet


Blog by Steve Laug

Here is a copy of the pamphlet that came with my newly restored Keyser Hygienic Pipe that came from an English Garden Shed (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/09/27/restoring-a-keyser-hygienic-patent-from-a-garden-shed-in-england/). It really is a fascinating read and gives a sense of history of the era the pipe was made. It includes a letter on the care of the pipe as well as a cut away picture/diagram of the Keyser Hygienic system. On the inside there is a shape chart that Is very helpful. I have looked for one for a long time so I was glad to see this. Enjoy.

The text of the Care of the Pipe document above is hard to read. I have included it below. Here is in all of its quintessential “Britishness”.

Smoked by Connoisseurs.

The Care of the pipe

The following suggestions will enable the owner of a KEYSER HYGIENIC PIPE to obtain the best results.

In the early stages it is advisable to only half fill the bowl and smoke slowly, increasing the amount of the charge after the first few pipefuls. Never refill on top of a half smoked charge. Always allow the bowl to cool before refilling.

As a wet heel does not form in the bowl of a KEYSER HYGIENIC PIPE it is recommended that each charge is smoked right to the bottom, allowing the bowl to carbon evenly and preventing waste of tobacco.

It is inadvisable to allow carbon to become more that 1/8 inch in thickness, as expansion of carbon when hot may result in cracking the bowl. When the carbon lining becomes too thick, reduce it, but do not remove it entirely; leave a carbon lining of about 1/16 inch.

The trap of the Keyser Hygienic Pipe should be emptied frequently; hold the pipe in a vertical position, remove vulcanite and pour out the moisture. The pipe should be cleaned regularly with ordinary pipe cleaners, and the vulcanite only should be rinsed occasionally with a non-flammable cleaning fluid and dried off with a pipe cleaner; on no account should water or steam be used.

The practice used by our forefathers of treating their clay pipes with alcohol and other liquids  should not, on any account, be used on a briar pipe as it has a serious detrimental effect upon the smoking qualities and life of briar and may result in cracking the bowl.

The KEYSER HYGIENIC PIPE is designed to prevent moisture, tobacco and ash being drawn into the mouth and to prevent, also, moisture entering the bowl and a wet wad of tobacco forming which is always wasted.

It is due to the patent stem – fitted exclusively to the KEYSER HYGIENIC PIPE – that the whole of the tobacco can be smoked, thereby preventing waste and showing a considerable saving. The absence of moisture permits the bowl to carbon right to the bottom, ensuring a sweet, clean, wholesome smoke, free from the moisture with which pipe smoking is usually accompanied.

Each pipe is produced individually and is an outstanding example of a product upon which Engineers and Pipe Craftsman work in harmony.

MANUFACTURED BY
MERTON PIPES (LONDON) LTD
UNIT 17, 784/792 HIGH ROAD
LONDON N17 0DA, ENGLAND
AND KEYSER MANUFACTURING CO

Scientifically designed – Made by British Craftsmen Printed in England

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Whatever it takes to make a pipe usable – A Creative WWII Trench Repair


Blog by Steve Laug

I was on Facetime recently with Paresh and Abha in India, talking about pipe restoration and what they were currently working on together. Paresh showed me some of the pipes that they were working on as well as several that he wanted to send to me to work on. One of them was a pipe that had come to him from a family friend who told him it came from WW2 and had belonged to a German soldier. He was not sure what to do with this one and almost felt that it was not worth working on. A piece with that kind of story attached is always interesting to me and I wanted to see it and also work on restoring it. Paresh brought the metal box that the pipe came to him in and the assortment of pieces that made up the pipe to the table to show me what was there. It had what looked like two stem options with it. The one that looked right was a Perspex stem. He was able to remove the brass shank extension from the bowl while were talking and thought he had broken it. I did not think so but underneath the brass there was a broken shank. The brass had been slipped over the broken shank as an extension. The pieces could all be combined to make a functional pipe. I was excited to get this pipe and work on it. Here are some photos of the pipe box. It bears the initials CK and a raise pipe on the cover. When the box was opened the pipe parts were scattered in the larger compartment. There was a bent wire in the box as well. I have a theory how that was used and will talk about it shortly. It is obvious that the box was made to fit a pipe in the upper compartment and tobacco and lighting material in the lower portion. There is a fabric piece fixed to the lid that keeps the pipe from moving around the box.Paresh kept the box in India and mailed the pipe parts to me to see what I could do with them. It took a long time for the pipe to arrive in Vancouver from India. I would have forgotten about it if Paresh had not sent me WhatsApp messages to see if it had made it here. Finally there was a parcel notice hanging on my door when I came home from work. The postie had written that a package was at the post office and I could pick it up the next day after 1pm. I picked it up the next day after work and brought it home. I carefully unwrapped the plastic sleeve that enclosed the box. I cut the tape that held the box closed. Inside were the pipes that Paresh wanted me to work on. The “War” pipe was in a plastic bag and wrapped in bubble wrap. I carefully took it out of the wrappings and put it on the desk. I took the following photos to show the condition of all the parts before I started the cleanup and restoration.I examined the pieces carefully to see if I could come to any conclusions about the provenance of the pipe as it now stood. The bowl was in rough condition but I thought it could be cleaned up to at least carry on the trust of a pipeman from the past. The brass was very interesting and had been cut off on one end. Each end had a different diameter. One end was the size to fit on the broken shank and the other fit the wooden extension. The wooden extension appeared to be oak or a like hard wood. The inside appeared to have been burned and was darkened on each end. It had a copper ring around the end where the stem went. The ring had been hammered smooth and worked onto the shank end to keep it from splitting when the stem was inserted. The two stems were interesting. The white one looked like a cigarillo holder to me and probably was the first stem to be used on the pipe. It could possibly fit over the wooden extension prior to the addition of the copper ring. That leaves me to assume that the clear stem was a later addition and the ring was added to make sure that it did not split the wood when inserted. All parts were very dirty but I could see how they went together to make a smokeable pipe. We talked about the background of the pipe on Facetime and also on WhatsApp several other times and he told me the story that had been passed on to him by the friend of his family. I wrote to Paresh and asked if he could give me a summary about the pipe – write down some of what he had told me in our conversations. This is what he wrote to me.

This WWII pipe was handed over to me by one of my best buddies who has a family tradition of serving in the Army. This pipe once belonged to his eldest maternal Uncle who had participated in WW II as a Sepoy (an Indian soldier serving under British or other European orders) and later during the war rose to become a Junior Commissioned Officer. He had participated in the Operations in North Africa as part of a British Indian Division. It was during one of the battles at El Agheila during November – December 1941 that he had picked this up this pipe with its case from one of the overrun German trenches as a souvenir and had been with him since…. – Regards, Paresh

That was the information that I was looking for about this pipe. It is one thing to assume that the pipe was a War Memorabilia but another thing to get the history behind it. Thanks Paresh. Now I knew that I was dealing with a German soldier’s pipe and pipe case that had been left behind either when he was killed or when he abandoned German trenches in haste fleeing the British Indian Division. His friend’s uncle had picked up the case from the trench as a souvenir. It had remained in the family in the case in parts since that time.

This is where my imagination took over and tried to figure out how the pipe had come to its current state. I wonder what was in the mind of the pipeman who put the pieces together. So I took what I could see and imagined the following scenario from the parts.

Somewhere along the journey of the soldier CK and his pipe he had broken the shank on what must have been his only pipe. It was broken and either could be thrown away as garbage along the way or perhaps he could rebuild it. The broken shank was the impetus for repairing the pipe and the way it was done was highly creative.

The remnant of the shank was carefully modified with a knife judging from the way the broken shank end was carved. The pipe man had used his knife to create a ledge around the broken part where it connected to the bowl. A brass shell casing was cut and modified to fit on the shelf that had been carved thus repairing and lengthening the shank. The shell casing was pressed onto the carved shank until it was almost flush with the back side of the bowl. A piece of wood – branch or an oak stick was “drilled out” by heating the bent wire in the box until it was red hot and then inserting it repeatedly down the middle of the wood branch until there was an airway burned into the center. You can still see the burn marks on the inside.

The one end of the shank was drilled out and inserted into the small diameter end of the shell casing. The other end, the shank end of the piece of was carved out with a knife to receive a stem. There was a hammered copper ring that had been crafted and pressed onto the stem end of the shank. The box contained two different stems with the pipe. The first was a cigarette or cigarillo holder that could have been fit over the top of the dowel. Not very pretty and not very functional as it did not fit well. The second stem was a Perspex stem that was quite long. It obviously was the one used with the pipe as the airway was very dirty. There was also some internal burning in the stem itself that is odd. I wonder if the soldier who fashioned the pipe did not put a burning wire up the stem to open it as well and damage the internals of the stem.

I probably will never know the story behind the pipe for sure but what I have imagined is certainly a very real possibility. Whatever the story is the pipe is a fascinating piece of WWII memorabilia.

With the imagination satisfied and combined with the story that came with the pipe I examined the pipe parts to see what I was dealing with. It was obvious that the pipe was smoked a lot. It was probably the soldier’s only pipe and it rarely sat unlit by the looks of it. The bowl was thickly caked and damaged the externals were worn. It appeared that the pipe had been dropped a few times as there were deep gouges in the briar on the heel of the pipe. The finish on the briar was worn out and dark but underneath there were remnants of what looked like nice grain. The rim top was damaged and the inner edge of the bowl was rough. The bowl appeared to have been repeatedly reamed with a knife. The airway entering the bottom of the bowl was also worn from the piece of wire in the pipe case. I would clean up the pipe and leave the character intact. Many would have left the pipe as it was but to me the work that the original pipeman did to keep the pipe useable made me want to carry on his legacy and give Paresh a chance to at least smoke it.

I decided to clean up all of the parts individually. I scraped out the brass shell casing with a small pen knife and then scrubbed the inside with cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol until the inside was as clean as the shiny brass exterior. The first photo shows the cut edge that the wooden extension inserted into. The second photo shows smooth edge that sat on the carved ledge against the bowl and the other edge was the cut edge. I cleaned the wooden extension next, scraping the grit and tars that had built up on the inside. The end that fit toward the bowl had an airway drilled through from the other end. It looked to me that the airway had been burned through with a hot wire. It was darkened from being inserted into the brass and as it had oxidized it had coloured the wood. The end that held the stem was carved to receive the tenon. It had been banded with a copper ring to stabilize the wood. I used a pen knife to scrape the grime out of the extension and then cleaned it with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I used the topping board and 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the insert end and remove some of the damage to the wood.With the brass and wooden shank extensions cleaned it was time to clean the bowl. I took a photo of the bowl to show the thickness of the cake on the walls and the trough that had been carved in the bottom of the bowl to the airway leaving the bowl. It looks to me that the trough has been gouged out over time by cleaning the pipe with the wire that was in the box. The cake on bowl walls was thick and uneven all the way around. It was also quite crumbly and soft. The pipe smelled musty from the years that it had been sitting since the war. Once it was removed there would be work to be done to smooth out the walls of the bowl. There are spots that appear quite thin and there will need to be at least a bowl coating done to protect the bowl.I carefully removed the cake from the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife, scraping it from the walls. You can see from the photos how crumbly and soft the carbon chunks were. I wrapped some 220 grit sandpaper around a piece of dowel and sanded the walls to remove the remaining cake.I used a dental spatula to rebuild the inside back edge of the bowl rim with clear super glue and briar dust. This was just the first step in the process that would take a lot more work to bring it back to a useable condition.I lightly topped the bowl on a topping board with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I did not want to remove much of the briar, just smooth out the damage. The first photo shows the topping and the second the rim after topping.I filled in the divots in the bottom of the bowl and carefully repaired what looked like a crack in the briar with clear super glue and briar dust. Once the repair had cured I sanded the repair smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend it into the surface of the briar. I carefully sanded the bowl and rim with micromesh sanding pads. I set the bowl aside and worked on putting the parts of the shank extension back together. I heated the brass shell casing with a Bic lighter to expand it enough to be pressed on to the wooden shank tube. I scrubbed the tube with Before & After Pipe Balm and lightly sanded the extension with 220 grit sandpaper. I polished the brass and copper band with micromesh sanding pads.I cleaned out the inside of the newly reassembled shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. I cleaned out both ends of the new shank.I cleaned out the broken shank on the bowl with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol in preparation for gluing on the shank extension. I dried it out and coated the shelf with white all-purpose glue. Once the glue was in place I pressed the shank extension onto the bowl. I wiped away the excess glue. Once the glue had set I took pictures of the pipe at this point in the process. To match the stain remaining on the bowl I used the mislabeled tan aniline stain. It is a reddish-brown almost cordovan coloured. I figured it would match the existing colour very well. I applied the stain with a dauber and flamed it with a lighter to set it in the grain. I repeated the process until the coverage on the bowl was even.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to even out the coverage and make the stain more transparent. I wanted the grain to show through the finish. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge of the rim and the inside of the bowl.I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem at this point in the process. It was truly a mess. There were tars and oils lining the airway making it almost black and there was damage to the interior of the stem material around the airway. I started the cleaning process using liquid cleanser and pipe cleaners to remove some of the tars. I was able to get a lot of the stuff out of the airway.I used a small round needle file to further clean out the airway. I sanded the interior of the airway to smooth out the surface of the drilled area. I ran alcohol dampened pipe cleaners through after the files to clean out the dust. The stem was finally getting clean. I took some close up photos of the stem to show the airway after filing. The photos also show the internal damage to the stem from what looks like fire. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil. I rubbed down the briar and the oak shank extension with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar and oak with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The grain is really starting to stand out. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I carefully buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The newly stained finish works well when polished to really highlight the variety of grains and mask the damage around the bowl and shank. The polished Perspex stem works together with the beautiful grain in the briar and the brass and oak shank extension to give the pipe a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem demonstrate the creativity of the German soldier CK who left it in the trenches of North Africa. The dimensions are Length: 7 inches, Height: 1 inch, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. The pipe is ready to head back to Paresh in India once I finish the other ones he sent to me. This pipe has really travelled – from Germany to North Africa to India to Canada and back to India. I wish it could tell its own story. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this interesting piece of memorabilia. 

Sasieni London Fine Briar Pipes Booklet


Blog by Steve Laug

This is another of the old pipe booklets that was posted on the Pipe Club of Brasil Group on Facebook. Victor C. Naddeo, the Administrator of that group and seems to post this kind of pipe memorabilia quite often. I am not sure where he finds them all but all of them have been interesting. He posted this Sasieni London Fine Briar Pipes Booklet a while ago. I love the older Sasieni pipes and enjoy smoking them. I don’t have many but the ones I have are great pipes. So, when I saw this old booklet, it was something I wanted to preserve in the Historical documents section of rebornpipes. Click on the pictures and they will enlarge. Read the pipe descriptions and prices as well as the tobacco descriptions and let them take you back in time. Thank you Victor for posting these on the Pipe Club Brasil Group. If you would like to check out the group on Facebook here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1001391469961131/

Charatan Models & Shape Information for the Collector.


In my hunt for information on the Charatan’s Make Distinction Dublin that I worked on recently I came across this helpful list of models and shapes of Charatan’s Make pipes. It was listed on reddit and it is actually the first list I have seen presenting the shapes and models available. I thought it would be worth posting here for quick reference. Here is the link to the original post. https://www.reddit.com/r/PipeTobacco/comments/z9knr/charatan_models_shape_information_for_the/ Thanks to the original poster of this on reddit. — Steve

Charatan Models & Shape Information for the Collector.

Charatan Models Lane Era
DC Stands for Double Comfort Bit / Stem, This is a Step Down Style Stem, it is easily distinguished from a standard Saddle bit, or Fishtail.

Charatan’s make freehand straight grains
Summa Cum Laude
Crown Achievement
Royal Achievement
Achievement
Coronation
Supreme 200
Supreme 150
Supreme 100
Supreme S
Supreme
Selected XLG
Selected
Executive XLG
Executive
Distinction XLG
Distinction
After Hours
Free hand Relief

Charatan’s make “Apprenticeship” standard shape grades
Special
Relief Grain (tan)
Relief Grain (dark)
Belvedere
Perfection

Charatan Shape Numbers
8 Large bulldog / saddle bulldog
11 bent 1/2 bent billiard
12 Large billiard
33 Bell Dublin
47 Ritz heavy shank pot
48 Large pot
58 Newmarket 1/16 bent long shank Dublin
61 Huntsman horn
63 Zulu
72 Burlington 1/4 bent stack
73 Salisbury pointed heel 1/4 bent apple
80 Large Dublin
81 Gilpin Dublin-bowl poker
83 Cavalier round rim calabash
84 The Ton barrel bowl poker
89 Bent pot diamond shank 1/4 bent pot
91 Medium Dublin
101 Diamond billiard / diamond shank billiard
102 Extra large billiard
109 Rhodesian 1/4 bent Rhodesian
122 Apple
148 Outsize pot
211 Outsize bent 1/2 bent billiard
402 Outsize lumberman / Canadian
420 Outsize billiard / heavy shank billiard
502 Prince prince
651 Banker diplomat
652 Panel billiard
654 Skater skater
655 Pot royal pot
0104 Medium lumberman / Canadian
0120 Large lumberman / Canadian

An Interesting Look Back in Time at Pipe Marketing


Blog by Steve Laug

I don’t know how he does this but Jeff comes across things in his pipe hunting, auction cruising perambulations that I never seem to see and in new or next to new condition. This time he found some old pipe labels that had not been used and were in perfect condition. I don’t know if these were printed as box labels or for display boards but they are really quite interesting. Each label has a lot “advertspeak” that I find fascinating, you know the spin that the Marketing Team puts on pipes that their companies make. Jeff sent me these photos of his find. Have a look. They give us an enjoyable look back in time at how pipes were marketed. I will describe each one for you so if you cannot read it at least you will have an idea of what it says. First here are a couple of photos of the lot.I have always enjoyed Yello-Bole pipes and have even sold a few NOS Collegiate pipes so this is an interesting piece for me. It says Yello-Bole Collegiate $4.50 and describes the pipe as coming in Small Youthful Shapes. The imported Briar Bowl is Guaranteed against burn-out for Life. What do you think – are you youthful enough for these small petite pipes? I don’t think I ever was personally.The Checker Pipe was made by Yello-Bole. Over the years I have restored several of these CHECKER pipes that have a Hand Carved Checker-Board design carved into the briar around the bowl. The ones I have worked on have had a mixture of smooth and rusticated patches on the checkerboard differentiating the red and black squares. These pipes sold for $5.50.The Airograte Pipe was also made by Yello-Bole and was their version of the Falcon pipe or the Dr. Grabow Viking. It had a metal base and shank with an interchangeable bowl. Yello-Bole made a variation to the theme by make the bowl more of a tube and inserting a metal grate between the bowl and the base for dry smoking air flow. It also had the Nylon Bit like the Grabow and the Falcon version. These pipes sold for $5.95 and you could purchase a variety of interchangeable bowls for the base.We move from Yello-Bole pipes to the Medico Pipe Company and their lines. The first label in the collection shows the Medico Tuxedo Filter Pipe. The label shows a Tuxedoed Gent with a pipe and a bow tie. These pipes are said to “give pleasure and peace of mind” for only $3.50. They were made of Imported Briar. Who would not want to spend $3.50 when Pleasure and Peace of Mind can be had for such a reasonable price? Are you in?The next one is for a Medico pipe. The label reads MEDICO Medalist Filter Pipes over Imported Briar and a whopping $4.95 to purchase one of these lovelies. I am not sure but I think this may well have been one of the first pipes I ever purchased at a local drugstore.I have worked on quite a few Medico Ventilator Pipes over the years and even converted them to be non-ventilated! This bit of marketing says – “Protect yourself – with the only pipe that must be smoked with a filter.” (So much for deciding to use or not use a filter as the Medico Marketing department decided that you need to purchase those annoying paper tubes to smoke this pipe.) After telling us to protect ourselves the label says Medico Ventilator Filter Pipe. Made of Imported Briar and sporting a Guaranteed Bite-proof Nylon Bit. The pipe sold for $4.95.These next Medicos have survived time and become collectible I hear. I have worked on all the variations in terms of playing card symbols – Diamonds, Hearts, Clubs and Spades. This fancy pipe sold for $5.95 and was labeled Medico Casino Filter Pipes. They were made out of Genuine Sandblasted Imported Briar, were embossed with playing card symbols and once more had those “amazing” Bite-proof Nylon Bits. Can’t you see yourself firing up one of these pipes with the guys at the weekly poker game? The silver coloured band adds a touch of class.The Medico Ever-Dri is yet another attempt to find the cool dry smoke and according to the Marketing Team they have found it and it only costs you $7.95. The label includes the usual Medico Ever-Dri Filter Pipe with a Guaranteed Bite-proof nylon bit. There is a diagram on the label that shows their inventive system. Their system has a Condensor shield and tube that keeps the shank dry, Throw Away Nicotine Trapped in Medico Filter, Dry Heel, Free Draft Drying Chamber and it is made of Imported Briar.The next label is for a “higher end” Medico – a Crest Filter Pipe. The label is golden and lists the price at $10.00. The Medico Crest has a Bulldog smoking a pipe logo. The label says that these Filter Pipe have a Guaranteed Bite-Proof Nylon Bit (Oh boy – I hate nylon stems as they are a bear to clean up after someone has chewed the bite-proof bit).  The pipe is made of the Choicest Imported Briar.These labels give a walk back in time to the era of the 60s. The labels came from two US pipe companies that provided their offerings to the pipe smoking public. The first was Yello-Bole and the second Medico. These pipes were standard fare of the American pipesmoker throughout most of the 20th century. They were reasonably priced and offered outstanding guarantees. They are still readily available on the estate pipe market and are an easy restore (barring the famous Bite-proof nylon stem). Hope you have enjoyed this bit of pipe history. Thanks for reading.

 

Lane Tobacco Ltd.’s The Happy Smoker: Spring/Summer 1946


Posted by Steve Laug

This is another of the old pipe booklets that was posted on the Pipe Club of Brasil Group on Facebook. Victor C. Naddeo, the Administrator of that group and seems to post this kind of pipe memorabilia quite often. I am not sure where he finds them all but all of them have been interesting. He posted this Lane Tobacco Ltd. “The Happy Smoker” magazine a while ago. When I first started smoking a pipe I smoked a lot of Lanes 1Q and a Black & Tan that had an R# that I cannot remember. When I saw this old booklet, it brought back a lot of memories of those days. I would pick up the tobacco in San Diego or in Carlsbad when I lived there. Click on the pictures and they will enlarge. Read the pipe descriptions and prices as well as the tobacco descriptions and let them take you back in time. Thank you Victor for posting these on the Pipe Club Brasil Group. If you would like to check out the group on Facebook here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1001391469961131/

A BRIEF HISTORY OF FLAME: THE STORY OF THE EVERYDAY LIGHTER


The article was produced and shared by Sharrow Mills and sent to me to see if I would be interested in posting this history of lighters on rebornpipes. We corresponded and the long and short of it is that I am posting it here now. The original blog piece can be read on the Sharrowmills site at the link below. Thanks to the folks at Sharrowmills for sharing this with us.  — Steve

https://sharrowmills.com/pages/the-story-of-the-everyday-lighter

“It’s not the order in which things are invented that makes them the most impressive, it’s the importance they have to humanity. So my number one is this: fire with a flick of the fingers.” – Stephen Fry

 Some items have been around for so long, and have become so embedded in the modern world, that it’s hard to imagine a world without them; the lighter may be one of these. Even Stephen Fry, as part of Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Gadgets documentary, named the cigarette lighter as the greatest invention in human history.

From the iconic Zippo lighter and disposable plastic varieties, to the obscure contraptions of old, the history of the lighter is a fascinating one, so we thought we’d tell you some more about it.

1823 – DÖBEREINER’S LAMP

In 1823, Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner, a German chemist and professor at the University of Jena, invented one of the earliest lighters; however, it looked nothing like a modern-day lighter.

Also known as a ‘tinderbox’ (or “Feuerzeug”), the lamp was an exceptionally popular item, reportedly selling over a million units in the 1820s.

The bizarre looking contraption worked by reacting zinc with dilute sulphuric acid in order to produce hydrogen. To use, a valve was lifted, firing the hydrogen towards a porous form of platinum known as ‘platinum sponge’. This then reacted with the atmospheric oxygen, heating the platinum and igniting the hydrogen – the result was a steady flame.

1903 – THE ADVENT OF FERROCERIUM

Ferrocerium is a synthetic alloy that produces very hot and bright sparks when struck. Often incorrectly referred to as ‘flint’, ferrocerium is a different substance completely; the naming similarity stems from flint’s previous usage as a producer of sparks.

Invented in 1903 by Austrian chemist Carl Auer von Welsbach, ferrocerium revolutionised the lighter, as it made creating necessary sparks for ignition easy, and was also a relatively affordable material.

1910-12 – THE RONSON PIST-O-LITER AND WONDERLITE

One of the most well-known classic lighter designs was the Pist-O-Liter, manufactured by Ronson in 1910.

Designed to closely resemble a long-barreled pistol, the trigger released a file-like component which rubbed against a flint-like surface contained in the barrel. This produced sufficient sparks to ignite flammable substances. The long barrel made the Pist-O-Liter a practical choice for applying sparks to harder-to-reach places, such as motor vehicle engines.

Shortly after this in 1912, Ronson developed the Wonderlite, a metal cased lighter more closely resembling modern    varieties, known as a ‘permanent match’ style of lighter.

1914-18 – WORLD WAR I: IMPROVISED LIGHTERS

Life in the trenches during the First World War was notably difficult, particularly on the front lines, where resources, tools and general supplies were extremely limited.

Soldiers therefore started to improvise and created everyday tools by hand using whatever discarded items they could find. One of these was a handmade lighter fashioned from an empty bullet cartridge; it even included a holed chimney cap to better protect the flame from wind.

 

1926 – RONSON BANJO

Image Source: http://ronsonlighters.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/rarevintage- unique-ronson-lighters.html

Ronson went on to refine their design with the Banjo lighter in 1926. Developed in New Jersey, USA, the Ronson Banjo was a huge success thanks to its simple usability and attractive design.

The world’s first automatic pocket lighter, the Ronson Banjo required only the press of a button to generate the flame.

It cost $5.00 at the time, but mint condition versions are worth many hundreds today as collectables.

 

 

1933 – THE FIRST ZIPPO LIGHTER

Inventor George G. Blaisdell introduced what would become the world’s most famous lighter in 1933. The design of the original Zippo proved so popular that it is still popular today, with only small changes.

Early Zippos were made of brass; however, during the Second World War they were manufactured from black crackle steel due to metal shortages. Zippos during wartime were commonly emblazoned with unit crests and other military symbols, a trend which is still popular today.

1945-55 – POST-WAR ZIPPOS BECOME AN ART-FORM

The inner mechanisms of Zippo lighters have barely changed since their introduction; however, following the Second World War, they developed into a popular fashion accessory with a huge variety of artistic designs and metals used.

The Zippo quickly became a cultural icon and was widely used in movies, television and advertising. Even today, vintage designs (such as the Venetian brass model pictured) are hugely popular with collectors.

 

1955-75 – ZIPPO & THE VIETNAM WAR

The Zippo lighter developed into a symbol of the American armed forces during the twenty years of the Vietnam War.

American soldiers fighting in Vietnam would often have their Zippo lighters engraved with a variety of personal mottos, slogans, icons and individual designs, commonly reflecting the emotions, beliefs and values of the soldiers themselves during the now infamous conflict.

Vietnam war lighters are now valuable collectors’ items, some fetching huge amounts in auctions.

1962 – PIEZOELECTRIC LIGHTER

The piezoelectric lighter was introduced in the 1960s and was developed as an alternative to fuel burning lighters. Instead of a naked flame, the mechanism here used a small, springloaded hammer to hit a quartz crystal. This created voltage when deformed, resulting in an electrical discharge, which served as the ignition.

While still in use today, the piezoelectric lighter’s popularity was relatively short lived, fading out of mainstream use during the 1970s. While not used by smokers, variants of this technology remain in use for more practical purposes such as barbecue lighting.

1973 – THE BIC DISPOSABLE LIGHTER

Bic introduced a new disposable variety of lighter in 1973 with the intention of rivaling the popular but relatively expensive metal cased Zippos at the time. Typically, the cheapest lighter on the market, the Bic disposable lighter was extremely popular and remains widely used to this day.

While lacking the artistic or fashion appeal of the Zippo, disposable lighters were perfect for a fast-moving, money conscious society, as they did not require refills and could be easily discarded.

SO, WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF THE LIGHTER?

Despite the recent decrease in the number of smokers in both the UK and the USA, traditional lighters have managed to maintain popularity.

This is thanks in part to their status as a fashion accessory alongside its practical uses. To capitalise on this, Zippo’s brand has expanded in recent years to include a whole range of apparel, accessories and other gadgets. This is not dissimilar to the expansion made by Harley Davidson Motorcycles, who to this day are a significant fashion brand, as well as motorcycle manufacturer.

It’s unsurprising, then, that Harley Davidson and Zippo have collaborated to produce some of the most iconic and popular examples in the Zippo range.

We believe classic metal lighters have a brighter future than disposable varieties due to their long lifespan, individuality and vintage appeal. Of course, only time will tell…