It is said that one of the first lighters to be invented was by a German chemist called Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner in 1823. It was often referred to as Döbereiner’s lamp. The lighter/lamp worked by passing flammable hydrogen gas, produced within the lighter, over a platinum metal catalyst. This in turn would cause it to ignite and give off heat and light. Unfortunately, the lamp was very large, hard to use and also highly dangerous. Thus it didn’t remain popular
The development of lighters continued through the 19th century. Pocket lighters made an entrance during the late Victorian era. These were hollow and filled with fuel, which was then absorbed by a cotton wick. This model used a sparking flint mechanism. Victorian lighters were predominantly crafted in brass however silver lighters were also found.
Ferrocerium (sometimes misidentified as flint) was patented by Carl Auer von Welsbach in 1903. This made a lot of modern lighters possible. When scratched the material produces a large spark which is responsible for lighting the fuel for lighters.
Using Welsbach’s ferrocerium, companies like Ronson were able to develop practical and easy to use lighters. Fine examples are the Pist-o-liter (1910) and Wonderlite (1913).
By the 1920s and 30s many lighters were crafted in the iconic Art Deco style. Some of these examples would even be inset with a tiny watch.
In 1932 a very famous brand called "Zippo” was founded by George G. Blaisdell, and their lighter became an instant success. They claimed to have unmatched reliability, wind-proof flames and lifetime warranty. It remains highly popular round the world even today.
The first truly automatic lighter came in 1926, from the Ronson Company. The model called "Banjo” enabled users to press a button which created the flame, and then when the button was released the flame was extinguished.
By the late 1920s, there were four main types of lighter in use: manual, automatic, semi-automatic, and striker lighters.