A staff member preparing for a household sale recently found two cigarette lighters, identical except for the advertising displayed on the sides. For young people or those reading this in the future I will point out that for two centuries in America tobacco smoke was unavoidable and everywhere. Cigars in the 19th century and cigarettes in the 20th were smoked in homes, theaters, restaurants, libraries, museums, on railroad cars and in airplanes, even in churches. Smokers ruled and woe unto nonsmokers or children who didn’t like it.
Matches, provided in little matchbooks, cheap and easily carried in pocket or purse, were the most common and least ostentatious means of ignition. They also provided magnificent advertising opportunities. But 20th century smokers with more class availed themselves of mechanical lighters. These came in two varieties: pocket and table. They did not use butane fuel like their modern successors but relied on refillable “lighter fluid” which was naptha, similar to gasoline. The now legendary and still-thriving-in-Bradford Zippo was the most successful pocket lighter. The elegant and ponderous Ronson led the table models. But many cheaper and less reliable brands competed in the insatiable market.
These included models so cheap they could be provided free as an advertising novelty. Table models and some pocket lighters employed a clever mechanical assemblage. Pressing an area on the top lifted a protective cap over the wick and moved a striker wheel over an artificial “flint” at the same time, igniting the naptha. When released, the cap closed over the wick snuffing the flame.
The lighters under consideration here are only 3/8 inch thick so not bulky in a pocket, but they present almost eight square inches of advertising surface. They were made in Japan and finished for advertising purposes by Shaw-Barton of Cochocton, Ohio. Both date from 1960 to 1962.
One lighter invites people to the Rositeria/4 O’clock Club, a restaurant, bar, and dancing establishment downtown on East Second Street. In addition to four jaunty advertising slogans, it bears the names of John Bellavia and David Costello. In the early 1950’s the Rositeria replaced Otto’s Restaurant at that location. About 1960 the name 4 O’clock Club came in and over the next couple of years, Rositeria was dropped. Bellavia was the owner and by the mid 50’s the building was known as the Bellavia Block, although Joseph and Mary Mattoy are listed as owning the restaurant for about three years in the mid 50’s. It then went back to Bellavia until the 70’s when first Anthony Calabrese then Joseph Panebianco are listed as owners. It and the building last appear in the 1980 directory. Costello is listed as manager in 1961 only. The location is now a parking lot. So we have an artifact that is dated to within a year or two but recalls a complex web of stories stretching over decades of downtown Jamestown history.
The second lighter promotes the Hotel Jamestown on one side and is dedicated “to a matchless friend, Hillman Lyons” on the other. Lyons had had a long career in small town baseball promotion, including Jamestown briefly in the mid 1950’s. He was considered a miracle worker in terms of attendance. Lyons shifted careers in January, 1960 when he was hired by the International Hotel chain to manage the Hotel Jamestown.
Avocationally, he became Jamestown’s most conspicuous pre-Russ Diethrick baseball promoter. Again Lyons remained in Jamestown only a couple of years. So we have another closely dated artifact reminiscent of the very long and involved histories, still remembered by many, of the glory days of the Hotel Jamestown and the Jamestown Tigers.