The ‘Father’ of modern day cigarettes, canny businessman or evil beast?

James Buchanan Duke, from the USA, (though sounds very Scottish to me), is the man the anti tobacco lobby probably have a photo of, hanging on their dartboard and consider to be one step removed from Satan.

James Buchanan Duke

It was back in 1880, at the tender age of 24, that James went into the then very niche Industry of tobacco cigarettes, where each cigarette was hand rolled by a team of women in a cigarette factory. His little factory was in Durham, North Carolina.

2 years later, fate intervened, (as fate has a habit of doing) and James became friends with a young mechanic called James Bonsack. Together they took the cigarette industry by storm by completely mechanising it. The machine that Bonsack created made one, very long cigarette at a time, that was then chopped down into individual cigarette sized cigarettes that we know of today. However, not everything went smoothly, and  they came across one problem – the ends kept drying out, which was not a good thing.  To solve this problem, they added a few chemicals and some sugar to keep the tobacco moist, and hey presto, the modern cigarette was born.

Their machine was so efficient that production went from 200 hand rolled cigarettes a day, to over 120,000 machine rolled a day, a fifth of the total US consumption at the time.

Obviously this then had supply issues, as they were making far more than were being bought, or they could sell. But James Buchanan Duke was also a savvy businessman, and so enters the advertising men, the men that made smoking sexy. They placed adverts in the glossy magazines, got celebrity photos, and invented that one thing that all smokers used to love- the collectors card inside the pack.

Some articles are vilifying him, and calling him a monster and the man responsible for millions of smoking related disease and deaths, but let’s remember, at the time they were invented, no one knew of the dangers to health.

He died a very wealthy man, bequeathing millions to philanthropic causes.

So now you know!


Leave a Reply

Get Adobe Flash player