The earliest company producing rolling papers was Pay-Pay, formed in Spain in 1703. The known history of cigarette rolling papers can be said to begin with Alexandro Rizlette de Cramptone Lacroix, progenitor of the Lacroix family which was eventually to create and, for centuries, control the RizLa+ rolling papers company. The story goes that the Frenchman Lacroix, in the year 1532, traded a bottle of Champagne for rolling papers that French soldiers were carrying back with them from Spain. He then copied that paper (just like the French do to this very day). Rolling Papers were invented in Spain, not France. The French didn’t trade tobacco with the new world until a lifetime after the Spanish already were.
In 1660, the Lacroix family began producing the papers; in 1736 they obtained a mill and founded the Lacroix Rolling Paper company. Their first big contract was with none other than Napoleon, who granted them a license to produce the papers—his soldiers had been using pages from books to roll their cigarettes. In 1865, the company changed the formula for the papers to include rice paper, and the name became "RizLa+" — riz is the French word for rice (the main component of the papers), and La+ can be expanded to mean "Lacroix," since croix is French for "cross."
The Lacroix family continued to make substantial profits from their venture through the centuries, amassing enough fortune by 1891 to build an impressive family mansion. Their product was circulted throughout Europe and the US by the year 1900, and in 1942 they successfully patented their method of applying gum to the edge of the papers, which made them the clear leaders of the market.
The Lacroix family owned the company until 1978, when they sold it to Fernand Painblanc.
In general, the composition of rolling papers has remained much the same throughout the centuries. Various companies use different combinations of pulp, hemp, rice, and flax. Rice's use in rolling papers goes back at least to 1865. Some companies may use esparto, or "needle grass," which grows in northwest African and southern Spain — but the material is not popular, as it may be more carcinogenic than its counterparts.
The JOB brand of papers possess some claim to prominence. In 1838, the company commissioned Paul Harvey to paint pictures featuring the brand, in a manner reminiscent of the popular art nouveau style of Alphonse Mucha. Popularity of the rolling papers in general saw an increase around the year 1883, when cigarette rolling machines were invented — another innovation from the Lacroix family. Their basic design is still in use in rolling machines today. Shortly thereafter, the Zig-Zag brand of rolling papers introduced what is now a very popular method of packaging rolling papers — the "interleaving" method, by which each paper in a packet is folded so as to link it to the next paper.
In 1906, RizLa+ introduced the first flavored papers (menthol and strawberry). Innovation in rolling papers is still going on, and in a way it can be said to be a microcosm of popular culture. Elements papers tout their magnetically-closing tobacco pouches; Bugler papers were widely smoked in jails for quite some time, and RAW papers reflect a general preference for organic materials: their papers are marketed as being vegan and additive-free.
All Rolling Papers are not Created Equal
Nowadays rolling papers are available in a wide array of materials, weights, and sizes to suit an individual's smoking preferences. Some prefer the taste of rice papers, while others prefer wood or flax. Some prefer a thicker, stiffer paper while others would rather have an ultra-thin, transparent burn. Some like a thick gum strip, and some papers have no adhesive strip whatsoever. It all comes down to personal taste. Below is some information about the sizes and styles of various rolling paper brands.
|Club Carre (Modiano)||Italy||Rice||70x44||Very Fine||Normal|
|Gizeh Green Extra Slim||Austria||Wood||70x28||Medium||Normal|
|Gizeh Silver Tip||Austria||Rice||68x35||Ultra-Fine||Med-Slow|
|Gizeh Silver Extra Slim||Austria||Rice||70x28||Ultra-Fine||Normal|
|Swan 1¼||South China||Flax||79x43||Fine||Normal|
|Urban Wraps||Spain||Hemp||79x45||Ultra Fine||Slow|
|Wheat Straw LA+||USA||Wheat||72x39||Fine||Free|
For more information on the history of sizes of rolling papers, refer to this video produced and published by our friends over at HBI: