The pocket cigarette lighter was invented in 1823 but got most of its upgrades in the 1880s. By the turn of the 20th century, they were as common as wallets and keys. The first vintage lighters were a bit basic and manual. They had a flint wheel which was struck to release a spark that ignited a wick to create a flame over a gas valve. Others were semi-automatic – their flint wheels opened up to uncover to the fuel source. And then, there were automatic, push-button ones that were a bit ahead of their time.
The first manual cigarette lighters were known as strike lighters and functioned like matches. The user would scratch a flint using hard metal tip attached to a wick. When struck, the flint wheel would create a spark, which in turn ignited the flammable fluid soaked wick.
Conception of the Automatic Pocket Lighter
By the 1920s, pocket lighters become more functional and artistic with the introduction of semiautomatic pocket lighters. These lighters had a lid that users flipped open to expose a flint wheel. The action simultaneously spun the wheel, igniting the wick.
The automatic cigarette lighter was designed in 1926 by Louis Aronson, the founding father of Ronson Lighters. With automatic pocket lighters, users only push a button to create a flame that stays lit for as long as the lighter’s button is held down. Earlier electric lighters were as simple to use and followed the same working principle as lighters found in some of the cars back then.
The lighters had a coil tip made of metal that would be plugged into a housing element which heated the bottom enough to light a cigarette. Through World War Two, most pocket lighters used Naptha, a mixture made of petroleum products. When the war came to an end, the fuel was supplanted by compressed butane.
Decorative Designed Lighters
In the 1930s, in a bid to attract more female customers, some companies made lighters that combined a variety of accessories like compact and cigarette cases and added decorative enameled designs or rhinestones. From the 30s through the 50s, Ronson Lighters made the Ronson Master Pack which combined a watch, a lighter and a cigarette case.
Vintage lighters vary from cheap novelty items such as pocket lighters designed to look little TV sets and lipstick cases to elegant, expensive objects made from precious metals. Some pocket lighters incorporate luxury materials from prominent manufacturers like Lenox Porcelain and Lalique Glass. Other pocket lighters makers include Colibri, Dunhill, Dupont, Evans, Penguin, Scripto, S.T. and Zippo. Some of these manufacturers also made table lighters. If you want something more modern then look at the most popular lighters in 2019 available online
Whatever you choose, make sure to pick something you love and cherish for the long term.