PAY-PAY: the History of the Roll-up

The Americans may have been the first producers of tobacco, and may have invented the cowboy, one of whose essential talents was to be able to roll a cigarette with one hand, leaving the other free to shoot them pesky Indians.

But rolling paper was a Valencian invention, and the first place in the world to manufacture it was in Alcoy, in the province of Alicante.

Today they continue making their papers at Benimarfull near Alcoy at the PAY-PAY Company, something they have been doing since 1764.

PAY-PAY papers was exported to many countries, especially in America, in most cases in return for tobacco.

In the rest of Europe tobacco was an extremely expensive product to be smoked on the actual plant leaves, which is why many people chose to consume it in the form of powder (known as snuff) or wrapped in newspaper.

To prevent that thick paper with ink from being smoked, the entrepreneurs of the time devised a paper which was slimmer than usual, 40 grs/m2, and white, made in big leaves of a size that smokers could cut according to their taste and need.

The start of the 19th century marked a decline in the fashion for powder tobacco; the custom of rolling it spread, and the need arose to provide paper in a size better suited to cigarettes. A Dominican priest (funny how priests are so often associated with vice-remember  Dom Pérignon from Moët et Chandon?) from the city of Xàtiva (Valencia) Father Jaime Villanueva Estingo, invented the smoking paper booklet: the use of which has survived to the present day. Smoking paper booklet workshops multiplied in Alcoy, with PAY-PAY’s standing out from all the others. Their covers showed beautiful engravings beside the name of the manufacturer –Pascual Ivorra.

Information was also printed on them about the history of Spain, about famous figures and celebrities, about habits, costumes, allegories, sayings… thus providing us today with a complete overview of the evolution in the society and traditions of the time.

In 1883 gummed paper was invented, making cigarette-rolling easier.

In 1988 the current PAY-PAY Factory –Iberpapel, S.L.– was founded, and is still supplying cowboys, and some Indians let’s face it, all over the world today.


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