140 YEARS AND COUNTING
THE HISTORY OF ZIG-ZAG
1855: THE BULLET
50,000 allied soldiers began their year-long march towards Sevastopol in the tail of the Crimean War. This strategic Russian port was home to the Black Sea Fleet, a large congregation of Russian Navy vessels staged to threaten the Mediterranean. The journey would be stricken with major battles along the way, ultimately culminating in Russian defeat after a historical siege.
French soldiers, at the time known as "Zouaves," primarily made up the Allied group. Clay tobacco pipes were common accessories amongst the men as they endlessly fought their way across the Crimean peninsula. One day during the final, infamous Siege of Sevastopol, a Zouave mythically known as "Boris" sat down for a smoke. He lifted his pipe to his mouth, lit a match, and was left in shock as a stray bullet blasted through his pipe.
WITHOUT MISSING A BEAT, HE REACHED FOR HIS BAG OF GUNPOWDER. IN A MOMENT OF SPONTANEOUS CREATIVITY, HE TORE OFF A SMALL PIECE OF THE BAG'S PAPER MATERIAL, AND ROLLED A CIGARETTE.
1879: THE BROTHERS
Two French brothers, Maurice and Jacques Braunstein, would eventually establish a cigarette paper company after building the Papeterie de Gassicourt, a manufacturing facility located to the west of Paris. In the beginning, the brothers would purchase large rolls of paper and process them into usable rolling papers. For their packaging artwork, they decided on a simple sketch of a single smoking Zouave.
Thus, 24 years after Boris sat down to light his pipe, he was immortalized. The infamous Zouave would continue to adorn the packaging of all "Le Zouave" paper products well beyond the founders' lives. The legend of the Zouaves can be found in many areas of French history.
PONT DE L'ALMA, A BRIDGE NAMED AFTER A CRIMEAN BATTLE, HONORS THE ZOUAVES WITH A STATUE USED AS AN INFORMAL FLOOD MARKER. THE FIGURE HAS BEEN RUMORED TO BE THE VERY SOLDIER BEHIND ZIG-ZAG'S LEGENDARY CONCEPTION.
1894: THE INVENTION
With the establishment of the Papeterie de Gassicourt came a valuable packaging innovation - an interleaving process that would auto-dispense the next rolling paper after one was pulled from the packaging booklet. This was a revolutionary step for rolling paper products, which came before in a flat stack or bound like pages in a book.
Fast forward 6 years and the Braunstein brothers were awarded a gold medal at the Universal Exposition in Paris for their invention. Another 6 years later in 1906, the company name "Zig-Zag" was trademarked as a clever nod to their unique patent. The interleaving process remains a global standard for rolling paper products in nearly every country to this day.
WATER FROM THE SEINE RIVER IN THE NORTH OF FRANCE HELPED POWER THE PAPETERIE DE GASSICOURT.
1919: THE ALPS
The Braunstein brothers continued to expand their operation and new manufacturing facilities were created to support their growth. The primary paper production plant, originally built in Saint Aubin, was moved to Thonon-les-Bains, a town in eastern France situated on the banks of Lake Geneva (or Lac Léman).
The town's position near the base of the Alps gave Zig-Zag access to a natural source of fresh water from the mountain range. This advantage allowed for a new level of quality and consistency for paper production. The Alps' fresh water is still key in upholding Zig-Zag's premium standards today.
EACH INDUSTRIAL PAPER REEL PRODUCED AT LAKE GENEVA WEIGHS 550LB AND IS OVER 15 MILES LONG BEFORE CUTTING AND PACKAGING.
1969: THE CAPTAIN
Over the years, Zig-Zag continued to gain fame around the world. After the company was trademarked, the unmistakeable Zig-Zag man began making his way into unrelated advertisements. Janis Joplin's band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, used Zig-Zag branding for a concert poster advertising their performance at the San Francisco Avalon Ballroom.
In 1969, the brand launched a rare marketing campaign using the tagline "Captain Zig-Zag Wants YOU!" While this was just a temporary marketing play, many still refer to the Zig-Zag man as "Captain Zig-Zag."
“CAPTAIN ZIG-ZAG WANTS YOU!”
1992: THE D.R.E.
Zig-Zag had long become the world's most notable rolling paper brand, but was further thrust into the spotlight with the help of a young rapper from Compton, California. Dr. Dre's debut studio album, "The Chronic," would go triple platinum, land him multiple Grammy nominations, and a Grammy win for Best Rap Solo Performance on his hit "Let me Ride."
Dre's album paid homage to Zig-Zag in more than one way, but did so most notably on the album's cover art, with the rapper's face framed by the iconic Zig-Zag emblem. With the success of the album came a new wave of recognition for the brand, helping solidify Zig-Zag as a pop culture staple.
"NOW GET ME A MOTHERF*CKIN' ZIG-ZAG AND WE'RE STRAIGHT"
Throughout the years, Zig-Zag has continued to innovate and meet the evolving demand for high quality rolling papers. 2018 marks the year Organic Hemp Papers were released, closely followed by Ultra Thin Cones. Zig-Zag's line of rolling paper products has expanded far beyond the original booklets created over 140 years ago, providing an option for every roller's preference.
What about the next 140 years? Only time will tell...