History of cigarette rolling machines

History of cigarette rolling machines

Back in the day, people used to take their tobacco dose by hand-rolling tobacco in smokeable leaves or paper. A skilled roller working at a cigarette shop could roll up to about four cigarettes a minute.

In 1867, a cigarette maker in Cuba, Don Luis Susini, developed a cigarette-rolling machine that imitated the hand-rolling process using technology, and even added the familiar paper-twist at the end of the cigarette. The machine, named Susini, could roll up to sixty cigarettes a minute.

Bonsack's cigarette rolling machine

In 1875, in America, the Allen and Ginter company in Richmond, Virginia, offered a prize of US $75,000 for the invention of a machine able to roll cigarettes. James Bonsack, an engineer, took up the challenge. He left school to devote his time to creating the machine. He created the first working prototype in 1880. Bonsack’s machine was able to produce 200 cigarettes a minute, or 120,000 in 10 hours. The machine worked by creating a long cigarette and then cutting it into several pieces - which meant there was no paper-twist at the end. Bonsack filed a patent on September 4, 1880, which was granted the following year (U.S. patents 238,640 from March 8, 1881 and 247,795 from October 4, 1881.)

In 1885, American industrialist James Buchanan Duke, who owned a tobacco company, acquired a license to use the Bonsack machine and by 1890, Duke supplied 40% of the American cigarette market, which was known as pre-rolled tobacco until then. He mass-marketed the cigarettes, advertised in magazines, made cigarette-smoking fashionable, and sky-rocketed the sales of cigarettes. Smokers preferred machine-produced cigarettes over hand-rolled ones, which were considered unsanitary as they were rolled with human hands and contained saliva.

This graph from US Department of Agriculture shows the growth in cigarette consumption from 1880 to 1995.

Source: US Department of Agriculture





Packaged Pleasures: How Technology and Marketing Revolutionized Desire (September 30, 2014) - Gary S. Cross and Robert N. Proctor


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