The History of Cigarette Holders (Flappers) by PopCultureSpot.com
Last Updated, April 10, 2013
The cigarette holder holds a place of Hollywood film history. The cigarette holder is usually only slightly larger in width than a cigarette with a long stem and mouthpiece. If you look through historical archives of the 20th century, you'll find that the cigarette holder was a female fashion accessory akin to what hats were for men. The trend of cigarette holder use for women began in the teens and went through the 1970's. The cigarette holder began it's prominence all the way back in the later 1700's, as a way for leftover tobacco to be used. The tobacco would be wrapped into paper and would connect to a device to create this cigarette of discarded tobacco pieces.
Today, the majority of cigarette holders are made of plastic. The cigarette holders of the early 20th century were made of bakelite or silver. Bakelite is a hard, solid plastic, essentially a non-porous plastic. You'll find that vintage radios that aren't made of wood from the 20's, 30's, 40's, etc. are made from bakelite. Many stylish cigarette holders of the 20's were jeweled and could be made from material including platinum. The earliest of cigarette holders were made from materials including wood and ivory.
(Above: Vintage Style 20's Cigarette Holder Flapper Prop)
The cigarette holder acted as the first filter for cigarettes. The filter was put into the cigarette in the 1960's and the holder acted as a way to prevent cigarette staining of the fingers.
Cinema and stage played a part in the history and popularity of the cigarette holder. Early in film history, Betty Davis was essentially one of the biggest advertisers for cigarettes. Her films had heavy cigarette usage and of course, the use of Ms. Davis and the cigarette holder was featured in the 1941 film "Mr. Skeffington." Most people when they think of cigarette holders and the movies, they think of Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's." The cigarette holder was a feature of her wardrobe and the visual of what Ms. Hepburn appeared as in the film including on the film poster. In 1961, the classic Disney animated feature "101 Dalmatians" lead villian and lead human character Cruella de Vil had the cigarette holder as a staple of her wardrobe as well. One can't think of Ms. de Vil without her accompanying cigarette holder. Counter cultural figure Hunter S. Thompson, President Franklin Roosevelt, and "I Love Lucy" star Lucille Ball were all well known cigarette holder users.
In modern television, the 60's advertising drama, "Mad Men" in the pilot episode titled "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," the character Rachel Menken uses a gold plated cigarette holder.
There isn't just one style of cigarette holder, though. Men typically used short cigarette holders that were typically 4" in length or less, theater length cigarette holders range from 10" to 14", opera style cigarette holders are 18" in length, and both cocktail & dinner cigarette holders range from 4" to 6" in length.
In the 21st century, cigarette holders have there place in today's age, but in a different way. While people do still use them as functioning cigarette accessories, the cigarette holder is a popular costume accessory and stage prop. Many stage shows across the world use them as part of the show and whether it's a 20's flapper costume or 60's cocktail party costume, they're quite popular for Halloween.
See some of the Cigarette Holders here at PopCultureSpot.com:
Retro Beatnick Cigarette Holder Stage Costume Prop
20's Gold Cigarette Holder
Pink Cocktail Cigarette Holder