lightThe lighter was invented in 1816. The first lighter was called “Dobereiner’s Lamp” (named after its creator, a German chemist named Johann Wolfgang Dobereiner). But his lighter did not use butane or oil as fuel, it used (the highly explosive) hydrogen. Needless to say his lighter was not very safe, and if invented today, would hardly be ISO9000 material!

Another difference was that these lighters used platinum as the catalyst (used to start the chemical change of fuel to fire) instead of  flint, or a Piezoelectric spark (the Piezo spark is explained later). With platinum being so valuable, you can imagine how this lighter was much a luxury of the time.  Only highly affluent smokers could afford the first lighters, which is why most smokers used matches until much later.

Although it was an amazing invention, Dobereiner’s Lamp was not so convenient because it wasn’t built for hands to hold. It was a kind of table lighter, like the piece shown in the image to the right. It was considered a status symbol and the prize of a socialite smoker–as it was quite the conversational piece.

Common smokers mostly used matches until the flint lighter became more popular. By 1908, the flint lighter was refined enough (and small enough) to fit inside a pocket. Special flint made specifically for lighters (ferrocerium) went into mass production at this time. Obviously, flint is a fraction of the cost of platinum. Using platinum as a catalyst faded out and flint took its place. This lit the kindling which would light the fire that fueled rise of the lighter.