See more objects with the tag geometric, metalwork, cigarettes, aluminum, skyscraper.

Object Timeline

  • We acquired this object.


  • Work on this object began.


  • Work on this object ended.



  • You found it!

Empire State Cigarette Lighter

This is a Cigarette Lighter. It was designed by Unknown and manufactured by Unknown. It is dated ca. 1931. Its medium is cast aluminum. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

In 1931, the Empire State Building surpassed the Eiffel Tower as the tallest building in the world. Its towering form and the rise of the New York City skyline around it had a wide-ranging influence across contemporary art and design production. The stepped forms of the skyscraper owe their profile to the introduction of a 1916 New York City zoning law that required the use of setbacks that then permeated the design of many objects. Beginning in the late 1920s, everything from cocktail sets by Norman Bel Geddes to furniture forms by Paul Frankl showed the influence of the urban exterior on the domestic interior as the stepped profile of the skyscraper was adapted and applied across media. This aluminum cigarette lighter shows how the skyscraper style reached beyond the sophisticated up-market buyer to middle- and lower-market consumers as well. At just about four inches tall, this lighter was a skyscraper in miniature and its shiny simplicity exhibits modernism’s penchant for smooth unadorned surfaces. The 1930s were the period when many Americans began smoking and the most significant health effects had not yet manifested themselves. Therefore smoking and its accessories were fashionably associated with the modernity of the city of which this lighter’s architectural form is a symbol.

This object was donated by George R. Kravis II. It is credited Gift of George R. Kravis II.

Our curators have highlighted 11 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

  • Flask
  • sterling silver, cork.
  • Lent by Brooklyn Museum, Modernism Benefit Fund, 1990.10a-b.
  • 33.2016.3
  • Cigarette Holder
  • jet, silver, diamonds, sapphires.
  • The Carolyn Hsu-Balcer Collection.
  • 73.2016.1

Its dimensions are

H x diam.: 10 × 5 cm (3 15/16 × 1 15/16 in.)

Cite this object as

Empire State Cigarette Lighter; Designed by Unknown ; cast aluminum; H x diam.: 10 × 5 cm (3 15/16 × 1 15/16 in.); Gift of George R. Kravis II; 2018-22-73

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Energizing the Everyday: Gifts From the George R. Kravis II Collection.

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

For higher resolution or commercial use contact ArtResource.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Empire State Cigarette Lighter |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=6 December 2022 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>