Friday / Weekend Open Lines

One of the nation’s most successful brand names went on sale for the first time this month in 1913–Camel cigarettes, the first pre-blended, packaged cigarettes. While machine-rolled cigarettes had been around since 1881, Camel was the first brand to become nationally popular. Coincidentally, Camels pioneered the now almost universal 20-cigarette pack. By 1919, with increasing advertising and product availability, cigarettes overtook pipe tobacco in the number of pounds consumed. Shortly after World War II, about 45 percent of Americans smoked. Now, just over 18 percent do so. Cigarette manufacturing remains a $32 billion dollar a year business for some of the country’s 114 tobacco manufacturing establishments. You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau, online at

Saturday, October 25th. A melted candy bar led to the invention of one of today’s most-used kitchen appliances. Percy Spencer of the Raytheon company was working on a military radar device in the mid-1940s when he noticed that his snack had gotten soft. Intrigued, he experimented with irradiating some kernels of popcorn, which promptly burst. Further work led to the first microwave ovens, which cost only a little less than a new car. On this date in 1955, the first consumer models were introduced, but they required installation and cost $1,200. Countertop models came along in 1967. Now, more than nine out of 10 homes across the country have microwave ovens, and manufacturing microwave ovens and other electric cooking ranges is a nearly $2.5 billion a year business. Profile America is in its17th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sunday, October 26th. Doing laundry was a wearying, time-consuming chore for many centuries. The industrial revolution and American inventiveness attacked the ancient chore on this date in 1858, when Hamilton Smith patented a rotary washing machine. But it was hand-driven and proved to be hard on both the operator and clothes. People continued to use the tub and washboard, even after the first electric washer came along in 1908. A few years later, the agitator-type machine appeared and gained immediate popularity. Finally, in the late 1930s, the fully automatic washer with a spin cycle went on sale. Today, over 85 percent of the nation’s nearly 119 million households have a washing machine. You can find more facts about America’s people, places and economy, from the American Community Survey, at <>.