logo - Join me in the 1900s mid C20th
The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

Rolling your own
cigarettes in the mid 1900s

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'Roll ups' cigarettes

Machine for rolling one's own cigarettes as used in the mid 1900s, shown with a packet of Rizla cigarette papers

Gadget, generally known as a machine, for rolling one's own cigarettes, and a packet of cigarette papers for use with the gadget, photographed in Winchester City Museum.

In view of the shortages and austerity of the Second World War and the years afterwards, my father made his own cigarettes from cigarette papers and tobacco, which were bought from the tobacconist. These cigarettes were known as 'roll-ups'.

Tobacco from used cigarette stubs

Making your own 'roll ups' from stubs in ashtrays around the house when desperate for tobacco was commonplace. A joke at the time in men's urinals was "Please do not discard your cigarette butts in the urinal as this makes them nearly unsmokeable".

Desmond Dyer

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The roll your own cigarette machine

Making one's own roll-ups was common practice. There was a special gadget for it, known - in spite of its simplicity - as a machine. It had two rollers, joined together with a length of some sort of fabric, as shown in the photograph.

To make a roll-up cigarette, a cigarette paper was laid between the rollers and the tobacco was spread onto it. Then the rollers were rolled together so that only the edge of the paper showed. This was gummed, and was licked to activate the gum. The rollers were rolled. and out came a cigarette. The whole process was known as 'rolling your own'.

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Cigarette papers

The cigarette papers were made by Rizla. I never knew of any other brands.

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The appearance of roll-your-own cigarettes

If you can add anything to this page, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

My father's roll-up cigarettes always seemed to be much thinner and empty at the ends than the bought sort of later years, probably because tobacco was in such short supply and there wasn't much spare money.

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.