Category Archives: Tobacco

Close but no cigar: Cope Brothers

Cope Brothers was the second largest tobacco manufacturer in Britain, and pioneered the employment of women in the sector.

George Cope (1823 – 1888) and Thomas Cope (1827 – 1884) began to sell cigars, snuff and tobacco from 63 Paradise Street, Liverpool in 1848. Trading as Cope Brothers, by 1853 the firm was undertaking its own manufacturing from premises on Lord Nelson Street.

George managed the manufacturing arm of the firm, while Thomas was responsible for the business as a whole.

Cope Brothers was one of the first tobacco manufacturers in Britain to employ a female workforce. Cope Brothers began to employ women following a factory strike in 1858. Female workers proved capable, so the policy was continued until the factory employed around 700 women and girls by 1871, out of a total of 774 employees.

Cope’s Christmas entertainment at St George’s Hall in 1864. Taken from the Illustrated London News.

The Cope Brothers factory was spacious and well-ventilated. Charles Dickens and Emily Faithfull were given tours and reported favourably. Shifts were of six to eight hours in duration. The girls were generally the daughters of shopkeepers, warehousemen and clerks.

Cope Brothers employed 1,400 women and girls by 1879. The factory ran almost the entirety of one side of Lord Nelson Street by 1882.

Thomas Cope died in 1884, and left an estate valued at £199,000.

Cope Brothers was converted into a private limited liability company in 1885. It had a capital of £350,000.

George Cope died in 1888. He was succeeded as managing director by his nephew, Thomas Henry Cope (1867 – 1913).

Cope’s Tobacco Works in 1889

The regular workforce at the Liverpool factory totalled 1,500 people by 1892, many of them women and girls. With four percent of the British tobacco market, Cope Brothers was second only to Wills of Bristol.

The formation of Imperial Tobacco in 1901 created a giant in the industry. In a defensive move, Cope Brothers acquired Richard Lloyd, tobacco manufacturers best known for the Old Holborn brand, in 1902. Robinson & Barnsdale Ltd, tobacco manufacturers of Nottingham, was acquired in 1905.

Escudo Navy De Luxe pipe tobacco was introduced by Cope Brothers in 1912.

H C Lloyd & Son Ltd of Exeter was acquired in 1924.

Around 460 Cope Brothers employees went on strike in 1950 in protest against the hiring of non-unionised labour. The strike lasted for nearly three months.

Cope Brothers was acquired by Gallaher in 1952, in an exchange of shares. The Liverpool factory appears to have been closed shortly afterwards. At the time, purchase of American tobacco was limited by quotas from the Government, and Gallaher acquired Cope Brothers to increase its quota allowance. Gallaher was also attracted by the strength of the Old Holborn brand.

Cope Brothers remained a major Gallaher subsidiary as late as 1969.

Escudo Navy De Luxe pipe tobacco and Old Holborn are still sold as of 2017.

John Hodge Tobacco Co

The John Hodge Tobacco Company was the largest exporter of dark leaf tobacco from the United States.

John Henderson Hodge (1852 – 1935) was born in Glasgow in 1852 to James Hodge and Catherine (nee Henderson). His father was a partner in J&T Hodge, which operated a tobacco factory employing four men and 18 boys in 1861.

John H Hodge emigrated to the United States in 1876 and established the John Hodge Tobacco Company at Madisonville, Kentucky. He was joined by his brother, Thomas Hodge (born 1859) in 1880.

Hodge married a Kentuckian, Kitty G Hodge (born 1856). His sons included James (born 1881), William R (born 1886) and John H (born 1889).

The Hodge tobacco factory at Henderson, Kentucky was struck by fire in 1895.

In 1902 James Hodge retired from J & T Hodge, tobacco and cigarette manufacturers of St Ninian Street, Glasgow, leaving William Hodge as the sole partner. James R Hodge was a witness to the transaction.

In 1913 the John Hodge Tobacco Co acquired three million pounds of tobacco for about $175,000 in a single transaction.

In 1926 the Hodge Tobacco Co, wholesaler and exporter of Henderson and Hopkins counties, Kentucky, employed 554 people.

John Henderson Hodge died in 1935.

The business was operated by Thomas Hodge (1925 – 2011), the son of William Hodge, until its dissolution in 1972.

Up in smoke: a history of Gallaher

Gallaher was one of the largest tobacco companies in the world.

Thomas Gallaher (1840 – 1927) served an apprenticeship in the early 1850s with Robert Bond, a general merchant in Shipquay Street, Londonderry in Northern Ireland.

Gallaher opened a tobacconist business at 7 Sackville Street, Londonderry in 1857, using £200 he borrowed from his parents. He made and sold Irish roll pipe tobacco. The expanding business was relocated to Belfast in 1863.

A five storey factory employing 600 people was built at York Road, Belfast in 1881.

In 1888 a factory was opened at 60 Holborn Viaduct in London, followed by a Clerkenwell factory a year later.

In 1896 the firm was converted into a limited liability company.

A new £100,000 factory across seven acres was opened in Belfast in 1897.

Gallaher refused to join the great tobacco combines of the age, Imperial Tobacco and the American Tobacco Company.

A machine-made cigarette brand, Park Drive, was introduced from 1902.

In 1907 the company employed 3,000 people.

In 1908 Gallaher acquired the six acre Great Brunswick Street, Dublin premises of the Dublin City Distillery for £20,000. There, he built a large tobacco factory.

At York Street, Belfast, Gallaher established what was, by 1914, one of the largest tobacco factories in the world. The company also owned extensive plantations in Virginia.

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Gallaher died in 1927 and left an estate valued at £503,954. His nephews, principally John Gallaher Michaels (died 1949), inherited the company.

The Constructive Finance & Investment Co, led by Edward de Stein (1887 – 1965), acquired the entire share capital of Gallaher for several million pounds in 1929, and offered shares to the public.

A new factory was established at East Wall, Dublin in 1929 for £250,000. The East Wall factory was closed with the loss of 400 jobs, following the introduction of a tariff on firms not majority-owned by Irish residents, in 1932.

Imperial Tobacco acquired 51 percent of Gallaher in 1932, although management retained its independence

Gallaher acquired Peter Jackson in 1934. The firm manufactured Du Maurier cigarettes, which was the first popular filter tip brand.

E Robinson & Son, manufacturers of Senior Service cigarettes, was acquired in 1937. The brand was very successful in the Manchester area, but Robinson’s had lacked the capital to take the brand nationwide.

Benson & Hedges Ltd was acquired, mainly for the prestigious brand name, in 1955.

The company grew rapidly in the 1950s mostly due to expanding sales of Senior Service, as well as Park Drive cigarettes.

Gallaher acquired J Wix & Sons Ltd, the manufacturer of Kensitas cigarettes, in 1961.

The Imperial Tobacco stake in Gallaher had been diluted to 37 percent by 1961.

Gallaher claimed 37 percent of the British cigarette market by 1962.

A large factory was established at Airton Road, Dublin in 1963.

Company president Sir Edward de Stein died in 1965.

By 1965 the company employed 15,000 people. By 1968 the company had an authorised capital of £45 million.

The Belfast factory was closed in 1988. 700 jobs were lost, and production was relocated to Ballymena in County Antrim.

Japan Tobacco acquired Gallaher for £7.5 billion in cash in 2007.

Ballymena, the last remaining tobacco factory in the UK, was closed in 2016, with production relocated to Eastern Europe. Nearly 1,000 jobs were lost.

A brief history of Imperial Tobacco

Imperial Tobacco dominated the British tobacco trade throughout the twentieth century.

Wills of Bristol employed about 1,000 workers by 1889. The business was best known for the Woodbine brand. Informed by their Congregationalist principles, the Wills family had, by 1895, introduced financing for a staff canteen, a convalescent home, a sanatorium, a resident nurse and doctor, paid holidays and a number of recreational clubs.

Imperial Tobacco was formed in 1901 by the combination of thirteen leading British tobacco companies. Wills controlled the combine with just over half of the equity, followed by Lambert & Butler of London, Mitchell of Glasgow and John Player of Nottingham.

It was a defensive merger following the acquisition of Ogden of Liverpool, one of Britain’s leading cigarette manufacturers, by the highly capitalised American Tobacco Company.

Salmon & Gluckstein, a retail tobacconist with 184 branches, was acquired in 1902, largely to prevent its acquisition by American Tobacco.

American Tobacco sold Ogden to Imperial in 1902, and both companies agreed not to enter its rivals’ domestic market. The global market was to be catered for by a new company called British American Tobacco, with a two third stake held by American Tobacco and one third held by Imperial.

Imperial Tobacco estimated it had “rather over 50 percent” of the British tobacco market by 1904.

The Wills Embassy brand was launched in 1914.

By 1920 Imperial Tobacco had 72.5 percent of the British tobacco market, including 91 percent of all cigarette sales.

The firms in the combine retained their own brands and salesmen, but pricing and accounting were organised centrally.

Imperial Tobacco’s virtual monopoly on cigarettes had been corroded by the rise of competition from such firms as Carreras, Gallaher and Godfrey Phillips by the late 1920s.

John Player overtook Wills to become the largest single Imperial Tobacco subsidiary in the 1940s.

Imperial Tobacco held 78.8 percent of the British tobacco market in 1955.

Imperial held 66 percent of the British tobacco market in 1968, followed by Gallaher (Benson & Hedges) with 29 percent. Carreras (Rothmans, Dunhill) was third in the market with 7 percent share. Will’s Embassy was the highest selling cigarette brand.