1900 – 1919 The Beginning

1900 Automation of Cigarette Making

James Bonsack

James Bonsack

In 1881 James Bonsack invented the automated cigarette making machine that ushered in the mass production of tobacco. The Bonsack device could make 200 cigarettes per minute, about 60 times faster than a skilled hand roller, displacing more than 700 jobs at Buck Duke’s (American Tobacco) factories in Durham and New York.

1911 American Tobacco Trust is Dissolved

The cigarette business was a monopoly controlled by American Tobacco until 1911 when anti-trust laws forced the company to be broken into different companies including R.J. Reynolds and Liggett and Meyer

1913 Introduction of Modern Blended Cigarette

RJ Reynolds introduces Camel cigarette which uses a blend of different tobaccos including flue cured varieties which were mild enough to permit inhalation of smoke in the airways. As a result of the ability to inhalation in the airways speeding nicotine to the brain, occasional smoking becomes an addiction with regularly daily use the norm.


Anti spitting laws created to prevent the spread of tuberculosis, get people to switch from chewing tobacco to smoking cigarettes.

1918 World War I

Soldiers in WW I received a weekly ration of 50 cigarettes.  Thousands upon thousands of ‘Doughboys’ returned from the European front as regular smokers, addicted to cigarettes. The popularity of cigarettes in the armed forces also associated tobacco with patriotism.
General John J. Pershing, commander-in-chief of the American forces in France in 1917, called tobacco “indispensable to the daily ration”.   “You ask me what we need to win this war.  I answer tobacco, as much as bullets.”

1920 – 1939 The Golden Age >>