Dear Matthew Alice: Where did cigarettes come from? I mean, did somebody invent them or did they just evolve from ancient times or what? — Marlene Walter, Boston, MA
Tobacco was originally wrapped in corn husks or stuffed inside hollowed reeds, so, depending on your definition, the first cigs might have come from the Aztecs and other New World Indians. Spanish conquistadors adapted this practice and came up with a huskless smoke resembling a cigar. They took the novelties back to Spain, and soon the upper crust was puffing away on stogies. Spanish peasants harvested discarded butts from the streets, wrapped the remaining shreds of tobacco in scrap paper, and smoked the first paper-wrapped cigarettes. Their original Spanish names were cigarillos (little cigars) or papeletes (little papers). An American inventor in the 1880s devised the first automatic cigarette-manufacturing machine, but the best cigars are still hand-rolled.