Lucile and smoking


Vitezslav Ivicic

I read somewhere here on ET that Lucile was smoking the BENSON & HEDGES cigarettes while staying in the USA. I researched a bit and I found out that the american branch of Benson & Hedges Ltd. (it is a britich company) was opened in 1900. In 1928 became the American branch independent, and was bought by Philip Morris in 1958.

So if I would like to enjoy the same cigarettes as Lucile was enjoying, I should buy the english ones...or is it not the same now? Of course, it will not be same as in the 1910's, as well as the vinolia soap for example. I know it sounds a bit weird but I just wanted to try it.

Benson & Hedges is a trademark which is currently owned by British American Tobacco. For whatever use it might be, their corperate website is at
Vitezslav, have a root around on the 'Gilded Age' thread. I think the subject of women and smoking has already been discussed there in some depth and Randy provided additional details about the brand of cigarette favoured by Lady DG. I'm not sure but I seem to recall reading that they were perfumed and might even have been monogrammed with her initials in gold!

I'm not sure but I seem to recall reading that they were perfumed and might even have been monogrammed with her initials in gold!

Fancy! That's Lucile Duff Gordon.​
The information on Lucile's smoking comes from Howard Greer's memoir, Designing Male. She preferred Benson and Hedges, he said, and had quite a cache of them that she brought back to Paris with her after the war (Lucile lived in the USA from 1914-19). They were not yet available in Europe. There's a funny story about Marie, Queen of Romania visiting Lucile at her Versailles house and admiring her ciggies. So, since unwritten protocol is to present Royalty with whatever they express a liking for, Lucile had her maid pack up a bunch of boxes of B&H and carry them to the Queen's car. Later, when Elinor Glyn reminded her sister that she should go by Marie of Romania's hotel and sign her register, Lucile said she would —— and joked that while there she'd like to get a receipt for all the things the queen "admired" on her visit!

As to the Benson and Hedges being monogrammed and scented. I'm not sure if that applied to the cigarettes or the holder. She smoked through a long, straw-tipped holder that might have been monogrammed.

I should add that Lucile's grandson, Anthony, said she never smoked around him or his sister.
The quotes are;

Pg 113

"She picked up from the little taboret beside her one of the long and expensive straw tipped cigarettes......"

Pg 152

"While waiting for tea Madame offered her guests some of the treasured Benson and Hedges cigarettes, which she had brought from America. I knew that not more than ten boxes remained in her Ladyship's carefully guarded store and when these were gone it would be virtually impossible to get more from America..."

The quote continues, and mentions gold tipped cigarettes offered by Prince Nikolai which may be the 'monogrammed' once referred to above.
Just to clarify, Benson & Hedges is a British company which, from 1878 until quite recently, held the Royal Warrant as suppliers of smokes to the Royal Family. The Royal coat of arms was removed from the packs only recently, when Prince Charles made it clear that there is no longer any demand for ciggies at Buck House (theroretically!) The American B&H operation was a subsidiary until 1928, when it became independent. As far as I know the B&H ciggies made and sold in the US were identical to those made in Britain, but it's possible that production here (ie in the UK) was disrupted by the Great War, during which and immediately afterwards it was probably easier to find these very British cigarettes in the US than in the UK.

My mother smokes too but I have seen her just once. She, as some mothers might do, does not want to set a bad example. And, if I would start to smoke, she could not make any objections to it if she herself would be a smoker.

And to the holder... Was it a holder that was on each cigarette, or was it her own holder in which she put the cigarette to smoke it?
I think there is a mistake here. Howard Greer describes 'straw tipped cigarettes' not a straw tipped cigarette holder.

The book also describes her(pg114)

'striking her chest with the hand that did not hold the cigarette' and 'she pointed the long cigarette at my nose'
In the matter of smoking Lucile was obviously careful to ensure that young people were not led astray by her own bad example. So if she were here now she would surely be saying loud and clear: "Vitezslav, if you're going to ruin your health PLEASE don't do it on my account."
I don't know about Lucile, but I would agree. especially as she died of cancer. She was very passionate about tea and biscuits, and also chewing gum They are much safer! :)
Was she really passionate about tea and biscuits? :D Does anyone know if she had a favourite tea and biscuit brand?
I don't know what brand, but every afternoon the Lucile shops offered tea and biscuits to customers, and it was one of the English traditions that was used to promote the Paris shop when it opened.

Again in Howard greer's autobiography, pg 75
(Lucile is making a visit to her NY shop with a guest and has just seen the collection, but is in a very bad mood)

"and then she ordered tea. Tea was always available in the House of Lucile. In the first place, most of the staff were English women accustomed to their morning and afternoon spot. At four o'clock even the mannequins stopped showing while tea was served. the customer had her own individual tray, with a little plate of biscuits beside the cup. The house cook was notified that Madame wanted tea, and in a few minutes a tray for two appeared. her Ladyship was about to lift the teapot when she looked sharply into one of the cups before her, and let out something that was like the hissing of steam. You know what tea stains do to a cup if the cup isn't thoroughly scoured. Well Madames discerning eye found a small tea stain. The cup was clean, that we all knew, but there WAS a tell tale discoloration inside it'
Bob, thanks for clarifying about B&H. I think perhaps the war did have something to do with it. Either that, or the ones she had from America were specially made for her and she had given them some special custom.

As to the cigarette holder, it would have been separate; it is mentioned in other Howard Greer writings (He wrote for Theater Magazine as well as his own hometown paper, many of them about, or at least referencing, Lucile).

I agree with Bob - cigarette smoking is not a good habit to start.

As to Lucile's death from cancer - she died of carcinoma of the breast, complicated by hypostatic pneumonia.