While rudimentary forms of ashtrays existed long before the 19th century, it was during the early 1900's that the design, aesthetic and popularity of ashtrays took off (likely because more and more women began to smoke in the early 1900’s).
We found several patents for ashtrays:
On December 16, 1935 (Publication Date: February 18, 1936), United States Patent Office Design for an ashtray was claimed by Ray R. Hutcheson, a citizen of the United States and residing in Belleville, county of Essex, and in the State of New Jersey.
On March 19, 1942 (Publication Date: October 26, 1943), Jay B Rees patented a safety ashtray. One of the principal objects of the invention was to provide an ash tray where a number of knobs are employed for reducing the area of contact of a cigarette with the supporting surface (therefore allowing free flow of air about the major portion of the cigarette).
Carrying off moisture produced by combustion is permitted and the cigarette is not allowed to become extinguished due to the presence of such moisture.
Of additional interest: On May 21, 1953 (Publication Date: November 17, 1953), Lawrence Welk a citizen residing in River Forest, IL invented a new, original, and ornamental Design for an Ashtray.
Although in recent years smoking has become frowned upon, since it may eventually kill you (or whatever the doctors say), ashtrays have somewhat remained a symbol of high class. Even if you don't smoke, an ashtray can be used as a decoration or a convenient holder for your thumb tacks. Check out 25 coolest ashtrays you can buy right now at Complex.com.