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Ashless cigar invented in 1919 in Bluffton

Bill Hahn, member of the Bluffton High School

class of 1919 held the patent

It’s a little-known fact that Bluffton, Ohio, is the home of the patented “ashless cigar.” Why there’s no sign at the edge of town stating this fact is something I’ve never quite figured out. Perhaps it’s time to do something about it. So, here’s me doing something.

This cigar information is a long-held secret in my family, who happens to hold the patent.

The credit goes to my Uncle Bill Hahn, member of the Bluffton High School class of 1919.

It appears that like many inventions, the ashless cigar came into existence by necessity. Here’s the story as my Uncle Bill told me. And, anyone with an uncle named Bill knows he’s telling the truth.

One additional historical footnote to this story centers on how Cigarette Creek, which flows through the Bluffton village park, received its name. Yes, the stream through the park is officially identified as Cigarette Creek on the Allen County map.

But, first the creek story.

At the turn of an earlier century cigarettes were a nasty habit picked up by teenage boys. Not wanting to be seen smoking, the boys found out-of-the-way places to light up. Obviously, there’s nothing new to be learned by this detail.

One of the popular hangouts where cigarette smoking occurred was on the banks of a small stream in a remote rural area southeast of town.

Although no one knows for certain, an educated guess is the small stream earned the name “Cigarette Creek” probably by the youngsters who frequented it. It was so common a description that the name stuck for the generation of youth in the 1910-1930 era.

Today that stream flows through the Bluffton village park on the county line road south of Interstate 75.

Uncle Bill was a member of the club who hung out there in the 1915 to 1920 time period.

Apparently cigarettes were forbidden to teenagers by their parents. However, cigars were somehow accepted. This fact never made sense to me, but I guess you had to be there to appreciate it.

Bill Hahn inventor of the ashless cigar

Uncle Bill claims that one evening he and some classmates became really brave and took a drag or two on cigarettes at the corner of Main and Elm in front of the Bluffton town hall.

At this time, a drinking trough for horses stood on the East Elm Street side of the town hall. Uncle Bill said the he remembered as he took a drag, someone came up from behind him and tossed him into the horse trough.

Turns out his father, Fred Hahn, caught him in the act and decided the punishment was a dip in the water.

Thus, invention by necessity came into the picture. Uncle Bill starting playing around the idea hiding a cigarette inside what appeared to be a cigar, as a way to stay dry.

He designed it and filed for a patent in the fall of 1919 and received the patent in the fall of 1920. The result was a cigarette placed inside something that appears to be a cigar. And, wouldn’t you know, it did not have ashes. Thus, the ashless cigar came into being.

The attachments to this story show the invention and official patent registration.

I have no idea what became of the ashless cigar. I always thought it was a pretty clever one whose day is yet to come.

Still, I’ve never seen one and Uncle Bill never told me how the story ended. However, I’ve always wondered if my uncle somehow had Mark Twain in mind as he worked out his invention.

It was Mr. Twain who wrote: “I smoke in moderation. Only one cigar at a time.”

Ashless cigar patent

Cigarette Creek today runs through the Bluffton village park

Bill Hahn


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