For those of us over 40, or perhaps a tad older… it doesn’t seem all that long ago that smoking was a perfectly acceptable social pastime, and even considered by some as being quite fashionable.
Cigarette smoking became widespread in North America following the invention of the cigarette making machine in 1881. Prior to this point, cigarettes were hand rolled and as such the demand was fairly limited. Fast forward a few decades and by 1944 cigarette production was over 300 billion per year, and apparently nearly 75% of the production during WWII was being allocated to service men & women.
Without question, smoking was prevalent virtually everywhere by the mid-20th century. And as with anything that the public widely embraces, there are always clever people coming up with gimmicky items to go along with it, including pencils…
Gorham Matchstick Pencil – Gorham Manufacturing was founded in 1831 in Providence, Rhode Island, and became one of America’s largest manufacturers of sterling and silver-plate items. This tiny matchstick pencil was likely made during the last decade of the 19th century, or early 20th century. It is sterling silver and the match head is yellow and blue enamel. A tiny slider extends the pencil tip. It is almost identical in size to an actual wooden match – 2.5″ closed and 3.0″ when fully extended.
Lady’s Smoking Set – This is a fairly rare matching set consisting of a cigarette holder and a pencil; just what every young lady of a certain social upbringing would have wanted as a special gift for her birthday or at Christmas. The outside casings of both are sterling silver, finished in a white guilloché enamel, with hand-painted roses. The cigarette holder tip appears to be bovine (cow bone). The pencil is 3.5″ long and marked “Sterling Germany”. The pair likely date to the 1920’s or 30’s.
Ronson “Penciliter” – Ronson began manufacturing their 2nd generation Penciliter in 1948 and Ronson’s advertisements during this period reflected the societal norms at that time –
“…It’s finely balanced… it’s streamlined… it’s always at hand for the two things he does most – lighting (press -it’s lit… release -it’s out)… and writing. He’ll constantly use… constantly thank you for the new Ronson Penciliter! “.
What man could possibly live without one? Especially when life apparently consisted primarily of lighting & writing? Come to think of it, I’m fairly certain that my dad had a Penciliter in his basement workshop when I was a kid.
The barrel of this one is marked Ronson “Penciliter” 1/20th 14K Gold Filled (which basically means there is virtually no gold in it, but just enough that they could say there is some). At 5.5″ in length, this is a rather large and heavy beast of a pencil; a nice, solid pocket protector would certainly have been needed!