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7 August 2020


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Wonder Indeed!

At fist site, the ash tray appears unremarkable…

Carlton Ware Wonder Ash Tray

Is there some devilish mechanism under the dome that sits at its centre, or does it hide some complex ventilation system to disperse smoke?


What was it meant to do?

As the backstamp found on examples tells us, the design was patented. So, who had invented it and what was its function?

Carlton Ware Wonder Ash Tray

Internet searches offered little information. Therefore, only by tracking down the original patent might its secret be revealed.

Patent No.171063/21

Wonder Ash Tray patent drawing


The suffix after the patent number tells us that the patent was granted in 1921. This narrowed down my search considerably. After a little detective work, I eventually found a copy of the patent, which included the drawing shown on the right.

The Fig.3 cross section shows a cigarette (e) positioned in the device.

The applicant, perhaps inventor, who applied for the patent in February 1921, was a Jacob Alfred Jacobs of Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex.

The nature of the invention is as follows:-

A suitable dish of china, earthenware, metal
or the like in the centre of which is a raised enclosed platform with apertures round the base to admit the lighted end of a cigarette slip in and touch an interior partition, the absence of a current of air thus causes the cigarette to go out instead of burning to waste.

If the cigarette is so placed that the end does not enter the aperture it continues to burn as in an ordinary ash tray.

The patent allowed for numerous variations, such as the addition of a match holder/striker, as seen in the drawing.

So there you have it. The ash tray is designed to extinguish cigarettes simply by placing the burning end into one of the apertures at its centre.

The Wonder Ash Tray Company Ltd

I also discovered the existence of The Wonder Ash Tray Company Ltd., presumably set up by Mr. Jacobs, the applicant, after the patent was granted in November 1921. In March 1929 a notice was placed in The London Gazette to say that the Ltd Company had been dissolved that month.

I was unable to find any advertising or promotional material for the ash tray but surely there must have been some.

Quite what the link between Carlton Ware and the Company was is unknown. Perhaps Mr. Jacobs had commissioned Carlton Ware to make the ash trays for him to market, or possibly Carlton Ware had paid him commission. Or had Carlton Ware bought the patent?

Wonder Ash Tray advertising The Holland Varnish Company

Invariably, the ash tray is found with a heraldic crest on its central dome, as on the example above. However, I have a record of one used to advertise The Holland Varnish Company, Montreal, Canada, so clearly some were used to promote businesses.

These curious ash trays were also exported to Perth in Australia, according to an advertisement in The West Australian for April 1922, which says:

'Just arrived the Wonder Ashtray, the useful novelty, 2 shillings & 6 pence and 3 shillings & 6 pence.'

Hay Street, Perth

The advertiser and retailer was William Sandover & Co., Hay Street, Perth. Below is a postcard from c.1905 showing his store at the centre of the card. I include this for our Australian collectors and also to say that in 1907 this grand building burnt down.

I speculate heavily that if the Wonder Ash Tray had been invented and extinguishing cigarettes before the 1907 fire then Sandover's impressive building might have survived!

Postcard of William Sandover & Co., Hay Street, Perth

I wonder if any of Mr. Jacobs's relatives have any memorabilia of their ancestor's invention?

That's all for now. ❑

© Harvey Pettit 2020.



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