A Brief History of Ashtrays and Their Features


Ashtrays have existed for centuries, but their popularity began in the twentieth century. In the early 1900s, ashtrays were used in public places such as restaurants and bars to provide a place for smokers to dispose of their cigarette butts. As smoking became more popular, ashtrays also became a staple of the home.

Although ashtrays once were more standard than they were due to the decline of smoking in recent years, they remain a popular item in many homes. Whether used for their original purpose or as a decorative item, ashtrays are a reminder of the long history of smoking and the development of the ashtray over the years.

2 Types of Ashtrays

Cigarette ashtrays are typically smaller and shallow, designed to collect and discard ash from cigarettes efficiently. Cigar ashtrays tend to be more extensive and profound, intended to hold the more considerable cigar ash for extended periods.

Cigarette ashtrays are designed with grooves around the edge that are made to fit a cigarette so it can rest in the tray and not fall out. A cigar ashtray is a container with larger-than-normal notches where cigars can be placed without falling over.

What Ashtrays Are Made of

Ashtrays are typically made of fire-resistant materials, like glass, ceramic, metal, stone, or plastic, that can withstand heat. Glass and ceramic ashtrays are the most common types.

Basic and Modern Features

Most ashtrays are shallow, cylindrical containers meant to be placed on a flat surface. For areas with high volumes of smokers, ashtrays may be mounted onto the wall, making them broader and more significant than the normal ones used at home.

Nowadays, ashtrays often feature a lid or cover to keep the smoke and smell inside. The lid prevents oxygen from entering, so a cigarette or cigar will quickly become extinguished even if it has not been stubbed out properly.

Ashtray Designs

In the past, simple containers were used to collect ash from tobacco products. As smoking gained popularity in the 1900s, more decorative ashtrays were created to appeal to female smokers. These ashtrays were designed with detailed features to make them more attractive.

An ashtray may be decorated with pictures of beautiful scenery with bright colors, women wearing fancy clothes, and animals having fun. It might also have an extravagant flower arrangement design.

Ashtrays have moved away from simply being functional items to decorative ones. Many designs are available now that serve their purpose and look nice in the home. They can be used while smoking and, when not in use, can act as home decorations. Some ashtrays can even be used to hold jewelry or to burn incense.


While ashtrays were initially made of clay, they are now available in various materials, including glass, metal, and plastic. While some might consider ashtrays outdated, they are still a necessary part of everyday life for many smokers. 

Ashtrays are also becoming increasingly popular with non-smokers, as they are often used as decorative pieces or as a way to store small items. Over the years, ashtrays have remained integral to smoking culture and history despite their design and construction changes.

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