November 21, 1871: Patent #121,049 issued to M. F. Gale for the cigar lighter
Nearly a millennium after the Mayans were smoking rolled tobacco, and three centuries after the invention of the first lighters (notoriously made of flint and gunpowder), Moses Gale patented a unique device for the lighting of cigars. A cigar lighter burns hot and steady, better for lighting the slow-igniting, oily cigar wrapper.
At the time of Gale’s patent, cigars were not only widely smoked in the United States, they were actually manufactured right here, beginning with the enterprising Mrs. Prout of South Windsor, Connecticut, who began hiring neighborhood women to roll locally-grown tobacco into cigars known as “Long Nines” in 1801. Later, Latin manufacturers capitalized on the link between ladies and cigars, notoriously claiming to roll cigars on the thighs of female workers. The Cohiba brand, launched in 1963, was the first to staff exclusively women cigar rollers.
While women rolled cigars in the 18th century, society frowned at ladies smoking them (with notable exceptions for artists and prostitutes), and not until the Roaring 20’s did women reclaim the habit. In honor of today’s day in history (and the doughty Mrs. Prout), here’s a whole gallery of cigar-loving ladies. Enjoy!