Category Archives: Tobacco

Craven A cigarette: a history of Carreras

Carreras became the second largest cigarette manufacturer in Britain. The business made its owner, Bernhard Baron, one of the richest men in the world. Carreras introduced the Craven A cigarette brand, which is still sold.

Jose Joaquin de Carreras
Jose Joaquin de Carreras (1824 – 1887) was the son of a Spanish nobleman who had claimed political asylum in Britain. Carreras had established a tobacconist business at 61 Princes Street, later renamed 7 Wardour Street, near Leicester Square, London, by 1853.

Carreras catered towards an affluent market, including George Craven, 3rd Earl of Craven (1841 – 1883), for whom he created a personalised tobacco blend in the early 1860s. The reputation of the product grew through the Earl’s social circle, and it was packaged in tins and sold to the wider public as Craven’s Mixture from 1867.

William Johnston Yapp
William Johnston Yapp (1861 – 1946) acquired the Carreras tobacconist shop for £3,525 in 1896.

The business was to prove successful under Yapp, although he would later claim that he simply got lucky. Business practices were certainly lax by the standards of today, and no financial accounts were kept.

Carreras continued to supply the quality upper-class market. It was a relatively small, though well-regarded business. J M Barrie (1860 – 1937), the author best known for Peter Pan, was a keen smoker of Craven’s Mixture.

Bernhard Baron
Bernhard Baron (1850 – 1929) was born to a poor French Jewish family in Brest-Litovsk, now part of Belarus, but then a part of the Russian Empire. When he was a child the family relocated to Rostov-on-Don in Southern Russia. His father was keen for him to avoid military conscription, so the family emigrated to Maryland, United States, in 1866.

Baron worked in a tobacconist’s shop, then a cigar factory. He had established Baron & Co, cigar manufacturers, on Pratt Street, Baltimore by 1879.

An inventive man, Baron designed a cigarette manufacturing machine. After he failed to sell it successfully in the United States, he relocated to England in 1896. He sold the patent rights to John Player & Sons, and other manufacturers, and made £150,000.

Carreras becomes a public company
Yapp had previously approached Imperial Tobacco and the American Tobacco Company regarding a sale of Carreras, but his proposed price of £150,000 was regarded as too expensive.

Yapp registered Carreras as a public company with a capital of £200,000 in 1903. The company was controlled by John Crowle (1841 – 1906), chairman, Baron, managing director, and Yapp.

Black Cat cigarettes were introduced from 1904.

Crowle died in 1906, and Baron took over as chairman and managing director. Baron struggled for his first five years with Carreras, but maintained his faith in extensive advertising.

From left to right: Louis Bernhard Baron (1876 – 1934); Bernhard Baron (1850 – 1929); Edward Samson Baron (1892 – 1962)

Black Cat cigarettes had national distribution by 1908.

A large new factory was established on City Road, London, from 1910.

The Craven A cigarette, based on the Craven blend, had been introduced by 1914. It was to prove an immediate success. Carreras sales increased significantly during the First World War, and the factory had reached capacity by 1916.

The Baron cigarette manufacturing machinery was constantly improved. Baron claimed that Carreras had “the fastest, most efficient, and up-to-date cigarette-making machine in the world” by 1920.

Carreras became one of the first tobacco companies in Britain to package gift coupons with its cigarettes from the early 1920s.

The Carreras share price rose fourfold between 1922 and 1926. Half of production was exported by 1927.

Baron was notable for the exceptional treatment of his employees. He was quoted as saying, “My workpeople I regard as my children. I have only done what I think was right”.

Baron established a new factory in Mornington Crescent in 1928.It was perhaps the largest tobacco factory in the world, with nine acres of floorspace. It was the largest reinforced concrete building in Britain, as well as the largest factory in London, and boasted air-conditioning.

The former Carreras factory at Mornington Crescent (2016)

Baron established a charitable trust for hospitals in 1928 to which he donated £500,000. He gave away over £2 million across his lifetime, and was perhaps the most generous benefactor that Britain had known at the time.

Carreras was the second-largest cigarette manufacturer in Britain by 1928.

Bernhard Baron died in 1929 with an estate valued at £5 million. He was one of the richest men in the world. He was succeeded by his son, Louis Bernhard Baron (1876 – 1934).

Louis Bernhard Baron (1876 – 1934) by William Orpen in 1926

John Sinclair Ltd was acquired in 1930.

Advertising claimed that Craven A was the most widely smoked cork-tipped cigarette in the world by 1932.

Carreras held 14 percent of the British cigarette market in 1933. The company employed 4,000 people by 1934.

Louis Baron died in 1934, and he was succeeded as managing director by his nephew, Edward Samson Baron (1892 – 1962).

Yapp died in 1946 with an estate valued at £4.3 million. After making some bequests, he dedicated his fortune to charity.

Carreras acquired the valuable trademark rights to Alfred Dunhill cigarettes in the United Kingdom from 1952. Within three months Dunhills were the third highest-selling cigarettes in the London area.

Acquisition by Rembrandt Tobacco Corporation
The end of quota controls in 1955 allowed Imperial Tobacco to increase its sales of Players cigarettes. The Carreras brands such as Craven A and Dunhill suffered, and the company’s share of the cigarette market had declined to just three percent by 1955.

In the face of steadily declining profits, Carreras was acquired by the Rembrandt Tobacco Corporation of South Africa, controlled by Anton Rupert (1916 – 2006), for £1.3 million in 1958. Rupert merged Carreras business with Rothmans, which he already controlled.

Rupert was a dynamic man, who described business as like a game of chess, but with dynamite for pawns.

A 1927 advertisement for Craven A cigarettes

Edward S Baron retired as chairman and managing director of Carreras in 1958, but was retained as president and consultant.

Carreras Rothmans opened a new factory in Basildon, Essex, in 1959. The Mornington Crescent factory was unsuitable for modernisation, and was sold off and converted into offices. Guards and Piccadilly cigarettes were the principal brands.

Rupert was highly critical of the former Carreras management and board of directors. He suggested that brand sales had suffered due to “a lack of sufficient research, proper planning and packaging”. The company had not downsized its superstructure to reflect its declining sales. Much of the machinery was outdated. He found inefficiencies everywhere.

Rupert outsourced some operations to lower costs. He also focused on filtered cigarette production.

Edward S Baron, once reckoned one of the wealthiest tobacco manufacturers in Britain, died in 1962 with a net estate valued at just £20,549.

Carreras had captured six percent of the British filtered cigarette market by 1963. 90 percent of Carreras production for the British market was for filtered cigarettes. The Basildon factory produced half of all cigarettes exported from Britain.

A cigarette factory was opened in Jamaica in 1963.

A factory was opened in Northern Ireland in 1965, which doubled production capacity.

Carreras Rothmans profits increased fourfold between 1960 and 1966. Carreras Rothmans was the third largest tobacco manufacturer in Britain by 1967.

The company held the majority of the Jamaican cigarette market by 1972.

The Basildon factory was among the most modern in Europe by 1973 and employed 2,500 people. Carreras Rothmans accounted for 61 percent of all British cigarette exports.

A factory was opened in Darlington in 1977 to meet increasing export demands. The Spennymoor factory was opened in 1979.

Craven A cigarettes were produced in 17 factories in 14 countries by 1979. British-made Cravens were exported to a further 82 countries.

The Basildon site was closed with the loss of 1,200 jobs in 1984.

Carreras Rothmans was acquired by British American Tobacco in 1999.

As of 2020, Craven A cigarettes are still sold in various markets, including Jamaica, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

A history of Lambert & Butler

How did Lambert & Butler become the leading cigarette brand in Britain?

Lambert & Butler establish the business
Charles Lambert (1814 – 1887) and Charles Butler (1813 – 1882) established a cigar manufacturing business at 38 St John Street in Clerkenwell, London from 1834.

Lambert & Butler relocated to 142 Drury Lane, near Covent Garden, from 1838. The business began to manufacture tobacco, as well as cigars.

Lambert & Butler showcased their English cigars, made from Havana tobacco, at the Great Exhibition of 1851. As a curiosity, the firm also exhibited a sample of English-grown tobacco, raised in Cambridgeshire.

Lambert & Butler had extended their premises to include 141 and 142 Drury Lane by 1852.

Lambert & Butler were advertising across England by 1863.

The next generation takeover management; mass-production of cigarettes begins
The sons of the founders, Charles Edward Lambert (1843 – 1910) and Charles Butler Jr (1848 – 1898), entered into the partnership in the 1860s. Their skilled management was to afford the business considerable impetus.

Lambert & Butler had a capital of £87,200 in 1870.

Charles Butler Sr died with an estate valued at over £47,000 in 1882.

The Drury Lane premises buildings were demolished and rebuilt in 1895. A Luddington cigarette machine was installed. Machine-made cigarettes had lower production costs, and rendered cigarettes affordable for the working classes.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Lambert & Butler had grown to become the third largest tobacco business in Britain, after Wills and Cope Brothers. Lambert & Butler had an excellent marketing department, but competition with Wills was hampered by the more efficient patented methods of production at their major rival.

Charles Butler Jr died in 1898 with an estate valued at £79,558.

The firm was converted into a private limited liability company, Lambert & Butler Ltd, with an authorised capital of £450,000, in 1899.

Lambert & Butler employed 1,100 people by 1900. The company held around ten percent of the British cigarette market, behind Wills and Ogden’s, and alongside John Player & Sons.

Lambert & Butler joins Imperial Tobacco
Imperial Tobacco was formed in 1901 as a combine of British manufacturers designed to combat the encroachment of American Tobacco into their country. Lambert & Butler joined as the second largest constituent of the group. Day to day operations at Lambert & Butler continued unchanged.

A large extension of the factory and offices at Drury Lane was completed in 1908.

Charles Edward Lambert died of heart failure in 1910. His estate was valued at £659,193. Photographs of Lambert depict a quintessentially patriarchal Edwardian figure, a mustachioed, well-built fellow who was rarely seen without a cigar in hand.

Walter Butler (1857 – 1913), a member of the Imperial Tobacco executive committee, died in 1913. He left a gross estate valued at £175,599.

Charles Rupert Butler (1873 – 1915) became managing director of Lambert & Butler until his sudden death from heart failure in 1915.

The First World War created a shortage of labour; 96 percent of male Lambert & Butler employees had either enlisted or attested by April 1916. Women were hired to provide cover for the enlisted men.

The principal concern was the manufacture of pipe tobacco by 1928. By this time there was a cigarette factory at Margravine Road, Fulham.

Lambert & Butler launched Varsity, the first filter-tipped cigarette from Imperial Tobacco, in 1936. It was withdrawn from sale around 1940 due to low demand.

Closure of the factory; introduction of the Lambert & Butler King Size cigarette
The sole remaining Lambert & Butler factory was closed in 1958. Its antiquated design meant it was nearly half as efficient as the highest-performing Imperial Tobacco facility. Lambert & Butler production continued at other Imperial Tobacco subsidiary companies. The Lambert & Butler brand accounted for just 0.2 percent of Imperial Tobacco cigarette sales.

The Drury Lane headquarters were closed in 1961.

Lambert & Butler was a relatively small subsidiary throughout the 1960s and 1970s, with a focus on cigars and pipe tobacco.

The Lambert & Butler King Size cigarette was launched in 1979, and was to quickly prove a huge success. It was the highest-selling cigarette brand in the United Kingdom in 2008.

King-sized: a history of Rothmans of Pall Mall

Rothmans established the largest mail-order cigarette business in Britain. Rothmans later grew to become the fourth largest cigarette manufacturer in the world.

Louis Rothman (1868 – 1926) was born in Kiev, then a part of the Russian Empire. He gained experience in the tobacco trade whilst apprenticed to his uncle in Kiev, who controlled the largest cigarette manufacturer in South Russia.

Louis Rothman (1868 – 1926), date unknown

Rothman emigrated to Britain at the age of 17. He worked for a cigarette manufacturer for two years before entering into business for himself. L Rothman & Co was established with a small shop on Fleet Street, London in 1890. Rothman initially hand-rolled the cigarettes himself.

Rothman became a naturalised British subject in 1896.

L Rothman & Co relocated to 5 and 5a Pall Mall from 1900.

Marcus Weinberg (1859 – 1923) was a Jewish emigre from what is now part of Poland. He controlled Weinberg & Co, one of the oldest-established cigarette manufacturers in London. Rothman and Weinberg merged their interests to form the Yenidje Tobacco Company in 1913.

During the First World War, the growing popularity of low-cost cigarettes, as well as the difficulty in procuring Turkish tobacco, convinced Rothman to pursue the mass market. Weinberg disagreed with his partner, and wanted to continue to target the upper-class market. Tensions grew, and the two men eventually refused to speak to each other. Rothman bought out  Weinberg to gain full control of the venture in 1917.

Introduction of the Pall Mall cigarette and the mail-order business model
Pall Mall cigarettes became the leading Rothmans brand.* They contained a blend of South Carolina tobacco and Virginia leaf. Pall Mall cigarettes were advertised as, “less liable to stain the fingers and may be smoked constantly without affecting the most delicate throat”, due to containing less nicotine than any other brand. The cigarette was supplied to the House of Lords by 1920.

Rothmans converted to a wholesale business model in 1922. By supplying customers directly through mail-order, prices were immediately reduced by 25 to 33 percent. The cigarettes typically reached the consumer within a few days after production, which helped to preserve product freshness.

Sydney Rothman (1897 – 1995) entered into partnership with his father in 1923.

L Rothman & Co sales increased fourfold between 1922 and 1926. Rothmans supplied over 100,000 smokers by 1927.

Louis Rothman died in 1926. He was remembered as a generous and charitable man.

Conversion into a public company
L Rothman & Co became a public company with a capital of £220,000 from 1929.

Rothmans supported its mail-order supply business with extensive newspaper advertising. It was the largest mail-order cigarette manufacturer in Britain by 1932.

Over one billion Rothmans cigarettes were supplied to the British armed forces during the Second World War.

Acquisition by the Rembrandt Tobacco Group
Following the war home market sales were negligible, and the business was acquired by the Rembrandt Tobacco Group, controlled by Anton Rupert (1916 – 2006), for £750,000 in 1954.

Rupert was regarded as “one of the sharpest people in the tobacco world … an elemental force of nature, a man to be reckoned with”, according to rival tobacco executive Joseph Cullman III (1912 – 2004).

Rupert retained Sydney Rothman as chairman of Rothmans, and his technical advice was to prove invaluable.

Rupert had been the first person to introduce the king-size cigarette in his native South Africa. Rupert introduced the king-size filter-tip cigarette, 20 percent larger than the standard product, to the Rothmans range, and sales grew rapidly.

Rothmans King Size cigarette advertisement, c. mid 1960s

Rothmans maintained the last brougham, a four-wheeled horse-driven carriage, in London. Built in 1865, it was used to deliver tobacco to West End clubs and restaurants. Its maintenance costs ran to £3,000 a year by 1956.

A cigarette factory was established in Toronto, Canada from 1957. Rothmans was the highest-selling king-size filter cigarette in the Commonwealth.

Acquisition of Carreras
In 1958 Rembrandt gained control of Carreras, manufacturer of Craven A cigarettes, and merged the company with Rothmans. The combined company held three percent of the British tobacco market.

Sydney Rothman retired as chairman of Rothmans in 1979.

The Rothmans brougham remained in use until at least 1980.

Rothmans held 39 percent of the Australian cigarette market by 1983.

Global scale and absorption by British American Tobacco
Rothmans was the fourth largest cigarette manufacturer in the world by 1991, with two percent of the global market.

Rothmans was acquired by British American Tobacco for £5.3 billion in 1999. Rothmans was the seventh highest-selling cigarette brand in the world in 2022.

* The Rothman’s Pall Mall cigarette is not connected to the Pall Mall cigarette manufactured by R J Reynolds in the United States.

The unfiltered history of Benson & Hedges

Benson & Hedges cigarettes are sold across the world. A former subsidiary introduced the highly successful Parliament cigarette brand to the United States.

Establishment and early growth
William Hedges (1836 – 1913) and Richard Matthias Benson (1817 – 1882) established a tobacconists on 13 Old Bond Street, London in 1873. The two men targeted the aristocratic market from one of the most exclusive retail streets in the world. Imported Cuban cigars were an important early component of the business.

William Hedges was born in Marylebone, the son of a coal merchant. A refined and pious man, he was a clerk by trade and a keen Wesleyan Methodist who frankly considered the tobacco business to be on the verge of immorality.

Richard Benson was a Bristol tobacconist who had followed his father into the trade. He was a coarse man, and in many ways the opposite of Hedges. He spent much of his time at his tobacconist’s in Bristol, but when in London he would stand outside the Benson & Hedges shop, dressed drably, smoking a cigar and brazenly spitting onto the street.

Benson & Hedges received a Royal Warrant from the Prince of Wales in 1878.

Benson smoked fourteen to fifteen cigars a day, and died, allegedly from excessive smoking, in 1882. It was estimated that he smoked 20,000 of the firm’s stock during his lifetime.

A P Hedges enters the firm
Alfred Paget Hedges (1867 – 1929), the son of William Hedges, joined the firm as an assistant to his father following the death of Richard Benson. He was a thoroughly decent man, who nevertheless possessed a fierce ambition.

Alfred Paget Hedges (1867- 1929)

Benson & Hedges was converted into a private limited company in 1896.

Establishment of American subsidiaries
The London business attracted a number of high-spending Americans. Encouraged by their custom, William Hedges established a United States subsidiary at 288 Fifth Avenue, New York, from 1897. Arthur Quinton Walsh (born 1861), a long-term bookkeeper for Benson & Hedges, was sent to manage the subsidiary. A relatively small business, it sold high quality cigars. At the behest of A P Hedges, Benson & Hedges also began to manufacture high-quality cigarettes in the United States in order to avoid import duties.

Sales were slow to develop at Fifth Avenue. The store was located on the first floor, and was thus unable to entice window shoppers. Walsh instead found success when he established a branch outlet in affluent Newport, Rhode Island.

Walsh eventually defied the orders of William Hedges and relocated the New York shop to a ground-level address at 314 Fifth Avenue from 1900. He removed the business to 17 West 31st Street from around 1905, but this was to prove unsuccessful due to its more obscure location. He relocated the business to 435 Fifth Avenue from 1907.

The Benson & Hedges branch in New York (1911)

A Canadian subsidiary was established on Cote Street, Montreal from 1906. Both North American branches were to prove successful.

A P Hedges became the managing director following the retirement of his father in around 1901. A P Hedges was a man guided by his Wesleyan Methodist faith, and served as a lay preacher. He was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament for Tunbridge in Kent from 1906 -1910.

Benson & Hedges received a Royal Warrant from Edward VII in 1906.

Benson & Hedges was converted into a public company with a share capital of £120,000 in 1910 in order to fund the expansion of the London and Montreal businesses.

William Paget Hedges (born 1894) joined his father at Benson & Hedges following service in the First World War.

Benson & Hedges was one of the largest retailers of high-quality cigars in the world by 1917.

Company capital was almost doubled to £220,000 in 1920 in order to establish a new cigarette factory at 104, New King’s Road, Fulham, and to provide further capital for the North American subsidiaries.

The American subsidiary was highly successful on the back of a strong national economy, and the British company continued to prosper. A Florida branch was opened in affluent Palm Beach from 1923.

Meanwhile the hitherto successful Canadian subsidiary entered into modest losses in 1925 and 1926, triggered by an economic depression which hit the luxury trade particularly badly. This was compounded by high taxation. Management believed that the subsidiary would have required a very high level of advertising expenditure if it was to remain viable, and lacked sufficient capital to provide it. As a result of this, the Canadian subsidiary was sold to Adhemar Gaston Munich (1882 – 1970), a French-born Quebec investor, and a regular customer, in 1926.

The United States subsidiary was sold to two New York banking houses in 1928. With a modest sales force of no more than 20 people, the company grew rapidly. It introduced Parliament, a premium-priced filtered cigarette made with Virginia, burley and Turkish tobaccos, and flavoured with liquorice, apple and brown sugar, from 1931.

Joseph F Cullman Jr (1882 – 1955) acquired 55 percent of Benson & Hedges (USA) for $1 million in 1941. His son later described the 435 Fifth Avenue shop at this time:

you might be forgiven for thinking you had entered into a time warp and had been transported to Victorian London. The manager wore a morning coat, the staff knew most of the customers by name, and the interior looked more like an ornate, exclusive jewellery store than a tobacco shop…the place was absolutely English.

A P Hedges died from heart failure in his London office in 1929. Major Arthur Pearson Davison (1866 – 1955) became managing director of Benson & Hedges.

Benson & Hedges held a Royal Warrant to supply King George VI by 1946.

Benson & Hedges (USA) was the seventh-largest cigarette manufacturer in America by 1952, and sales were dominated by Parliaments. However, the company lacked sufficient scale to provide its growing brand with the research and marketing support that it needed.

Benson & Hedges (USA) was sold to Philip Morris in 1953. Philip Morris was the fourth largest cigarette manufacturer in the country, but lacked a successful filtered cigarette brand of its own. Sales of Parliaments tripled between 1953 and 1961, due to improved distribution and a growing market for filtered cigarettes.

Sale to Gallaher
Benson & Hedges of Old Bond Street enjoyed consistently moderate success due to its specialisation in the luxury trade. The business was subject to a friendly takeover by Gallaher, a large British tobacco company which was attracted to the prestige value of the brand, in 1955.

Benson & Hedges held a Royal Warrant to supply the household of Queen Elizabeth II by 1956.

Gallaher sold the overseas rights to the Benson & Hedges brand outside North America to British American Tobacco in 1956.

Benson & Hedges of Canada was acquired by Philip Morris for around US$500,000 in 1958. The business was primarily focused on cigars.

Benson & Hedges introduced the Mayfair and Sterling brands to the British market from 1965.

Benson & Hedges was the leading king-size filtered cigarette brand in Britain by 1965. However, king-size cigarettes held just four percent of the total market.

Sales of Silk Cut low-tar cigarettes quadrupled between September 1971 and January 1972.

Estimates suggested that Benson & Hedges was the eighth highest-selling cigarette brand in the United States in 1973.

Benson & Hedges of Canada was merged with Rothmans in 1986 to form Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc, in which Rothmans held a 60 percent stake, and Philip Morris held a 40 percent stake.

The Benson & Hedges premises at 13 Old Bond Street were retained until at least 1998.

The Queen Elizabeth II Royal Warrant was withdrawn in 1999.

Japan Tobacco acquired Gallaher for £9.7 billion in 2007.

Philip Morris International acquired full control of Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc for about C$2 billion in 2008.

Benson & Hedges remains a leading brand of Japan Tobacco, Philip Morris USA, Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco.. Parliament is the twelfth highest-selling cigarette brand in the world. Benson & Hedges Blue is the highest-selling cigarette in Britain.

Whiff of success: Henri Wintermans

How did Henri Wintermans become the highest-selling cigar brand in the world?

A Wintermans & Sons is established
Two brothers, Sjaak Wintermans and Henri Wintermans (1886 – 1975), established a cigar manufacturing business at Duizel, in the Netherlands, from 1904. They traded as A Wintermans & Sons, in honour of their father. Sjaak focused on sales and Henri concentrated on the buying and blending of tobacco.

A Wintermans & Sons captured a substantial proportion of the Dutch market but Henri amicably left the partnership to establish his own cigar manufacturing business from 1934.

Henri Wintermans relocated to the neighbouring town of Eersel, and his son Adriaan Wintermans entered into the business.

Adriaan Wintermans takes over the business, and grows sales in Britain and France
Adriaan Wintermans took over management of his father’s business from 1945.

Wintermans identified the post-war Dutch cigar market as oversaturated, and decided to concentrate on export sales in order to drive his business forward. Britain quickly became the largest market.

The Cafe Creme cigarillo was introduced into France from the early 1960s.

Henri Wintermans was by far the highest-selling Dutch cigar brand in Britain by 1965.

Wintermans is sold to British American Tobacco
Adriaan Wintermans had a clear vision for the European cigar market, but he lacked the financial capital to realise his ambition. He felt that the company could best realise its potential as a part of a larger concern, and sold Henri Wintermans to British American Tobacco (BAT) for just under £2 million in 1966.

BAT was the largest manufacturer of tobacco products in the world, and Adriaan Wintermans was appointed head of their European cigar business.

Over 500 million Henri Wintermans cigars were produced in 1971.

Henri Wintermans made just two percent of its sales in the Netherlands in 1972. Britain accounted for over 62 percent of sales, and Henri Wintermans held around 15 percent of the British cigar market.

Henri Wintermans increased sales by over 500 percent between 1966 and 1972. Production capacity was increased by 75 percent to cope with rising demand in 1972.

A Henri Wintermans advertisement from the Daily Telegraph in 1986

Henri Wintermans was the leading cigar exporter in the world by 1977. It was the highest-selling imported cigar brand in Britain by 1978.

Wintermans Cafe Creme ranked second in the British miniature cigar market by 1983.

Over 600 million Henri Winterman cigars were sold in 1990.

BAT sells Wintermans to the Scandinavian Tobacco Group
Henri Wintermans was sold to the Scandinavian Tobacco Group for £55 million in 1996. The merged business was the largest cigar manufacturer in Europe.

Henri Wintermans employed around 2,000 people in 1999.

Henri Wintermans dominates the British market for medium and large cigars, with a 76 percent volume share in 2020.

Henri Wintermans products continue to be manufactured in Eersel. The vast majority of sales are in Europe. Henri Wintermans is the leading cigar brand in Australia.

Close but no cigar: Cope Brothers

Cope Brothers of Liverpool operated the largest tobacco factory in the world.

George Cope (1823 – 1888) and Thomas Cope (1827 – 1884) began to sell cigars, snuff and tobacco from 63 Paradise Street, Liverpool from 1848.

Cope Brothers had entered into tobacco manufacturing by 1853, with a factory on Lord Nelson Street, adjacent to Lime Street Railway Station. George Cope was responsible for the manufacturing arm of the firm, while Thomas Cope managed the business as a whole.

The largest tobacco factory in the world
Cope Brothers was one of the first tobacco manufacturers in Britain to employ a female workforce.  Women were first employed following a factory strike in 1858. Female workers were to prove capable, and the factory employed around 597 women, and 160 males by 1872. The women were generally the daughters of shopkeepers, warehousemen and clerks, and worked shifts of six to eight hours. Charles Dickens and Emily Faithfull reported favourably on conditions in the factory, which was spacious and well-ventilated.

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

Cope Brothers operated the largest tobacco factory in Britain by 1870. Cope Brothers employed 1,400 women by 1879.

Cope Brothers operated the largest tobacco factory in the world by 1884. The buildings occupied almost the entirety of one side of Lord Nelson Street. Cope Brothers was the largest manufacturer of cigarettes in England, with a production rate of 250,000 to 300,000 a week.

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

Cope Brothers is registered as a limited liability company
Cope Brothers was converted into a private limited liability company with a capital of £350,000 in 1885. John A Willox (1842 – 1905) was appointed as a director.

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

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

Increased competition
The American Tobacco Company (ATC) acquired Ogdens, a Liverpool tobacco manufacturer, in 1901. ATC operated Ogdens at a massive loss in order to undercut its rivals and increase its market share. Although the acquisition was to impact the entire British tobacco industry, Cope Brothers suffered more that most, perhaps due to its proximity to its rival, as well as its decision not to join Imperial Tobacco, formed as a defensive merger of major British tobacco companies.

John A Willox, chairman of Cope Brothers, decried “the deliberate and organised effort on the part of American capitalists to destroy a British industry and create a selfish monopoly for themselves”. On the other hand, the Daily Mail criticised Cope Brothers as “slow, easy-going [and] old-fashioned”, with “out-of-date methods”.

In a defensive move, Cope Brothers acquired Richard Lloyd & Sons of Clerkenwell, a London tobacco manufacturer best known for the Old Holborn brand, in 1902. William Jollyman (1844 – 1920), the proprietor of Richard Lloyd, was appointed general manager of Cope Brothers.

Robinson & Barnsdale, tobacco manufacturer of Nottingham, was acquired in 1905.

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

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

Strike issues and acquisition
Around 460 Cope Brothers employees went on strike in 1950 in protest against the employment of non-unionised labour. The strike lasted for nearly three months, and resulted in the dismissal of nearly 200 striking workers.

Cope Brothers was acquired by Gallaher in an exchange of shares which valued the company at around £1 million in 1953.

At the time purchase of American tobacco was rationed by the British Government, and Gallaher acquired Cope Brothers to increase its quota allowance. Gallaher was also attracted by the fast-growing Old Holborn rolling tobacco brand.

Gallaher closed the Cope Brothers factory and sold the site to the Automatic Telephone and Electric Company. Meanwhile, capacity at the Richard Lloyd factory was increased.

All Cope Brothers branded products had been discontinued by 1965, with the exception of Escudo Navy De Luxe pipe tobacco. Various Richard Lloyd branded products were still produced, such as Old Holborn.

Old Holborn is still widely sold in Britain, and Escudo Navy De Luxe pipe tobacco is produced overseas by Scandinavian Tobacco Group.

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.

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

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

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

John Henderson Hodge died in 1935.

James Hodge died in 1944.

Hodge Tobacco Co employed 200 workers during peak season in 1965, and had annual sales of over $1.5 million.

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 became the largest independent buyer of tobacco in the world. Its cigarette brands, including Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut, remain widely sold today.

Thomas Gallaher (1840 – 1927) was the son of a prosperous Protestant miller who owned the Templemoyle Grain Mills in Eglinton, Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Gallaher served an apprenticeship with Robert Bond, a general merchant on Shipquay Street, Londonderry, in the early 1850s.

With £200 he borrowed from his parents, Gallaher opened a tobacconist business at 7 Sackville Street, Londonderry, in 1857. He manufactured and sold Irish roll pipe tobacco.

The expanding business was relocated to York Road, Belfast from 1863. A five-storey factory was built on the site in 1881. 600 people were employed.

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

Gallaher was converted into a limited liability company with a capital of £1 million in 1896.

A new £100,000 factory was established in Belfast in 1897. The seven-acre site was probably the largest tobacco manufacturing plant in the world.

Thomas Gallaher disliked machine-made cigarettes, but eventually relented to market pressure, and began to produce the Park Drive brand from 1902.

Thomas Gallaher declined to join the great tobacco combines of the age, Imperial Tobacco and the American Tobacco Company. Consequently, he controlled the largest independent tobacco company in the world by 1903.

Gallaher bought his raw materials directly, and by cutting out the middleman he was able to keep his costs low. He was the largest independent purchaser of American tobacco in the world by 1906, and bought only the highest grade of crop.

The atmosphere at the Belfast factory was described as familial. Midday meals were served at cost-price. Gallaher was the first man in Belfast to reduce the working week from 57 to 47 hours. The company employed 3,000 people by 1907.

Gallaher determined to focus on the Park Drive brand from 1907. Sales were supported by national advertising.

Gallaher acquired the six-acre Great Brunswick Street premises of the Dublin City Distillery for £20,000 in 1908. He used the site to build a large tobacco factory.

Gallaher established bonded warehouses in Belfast, and was credited with helping to transform the city into a major shipping port.

Extensive tobacco plantations had been acquired in Virginia by 1914, and Gallaher was the largest purchaser of tobacco in the world.

Gallaher had the largest tobacco factory in Europe at York Street in Belfast by 1920. The site could produce 40,000 cigarettes an hour by 1927.

The York Road, Belfast site

Gallaher continued to work at his desk every day until a few months before he died in 1927. He was remembered as a courteous, kindly man, a generous employer, and a highly talented businessman. His plain ways endeared him to people. He left an estate valued at £503,954.

His stake in the company was largely passed to his nephew, John Gallaher Michaels (1880 – 1948). Michaels had worked for his uncle for many years, and had managed the American operations.

Public offering
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.

Why Michaels divested his stake in Gallaher remains unclear, but he, his uncle and his brother all lacked heirs, so he may have simply wished to retire.

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

Imperial Tobacco acquired 51 percent of Gallaher for £1.25 million in 1932, in order to forestall a potential bid for Gallaher by the American Tobacco Company. Gallaher retained its managerial independence.

Acquisition trail and subsequent growth
De Stein pursued cigarette sales. Gallaher was the fourth largest cigarette manufacturer in Britain by 1932.

Gallaher acquired Peter Jackson in 1934. The company manufactured Du Maurier cigarettes, which was the first popular filter-tip brand in Britain. Gallaher also acquired the International Tobacco Company, which brought the Nelson cigarette brand.

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

A 1955 advertisement for Senior Service cigarettes

J Freeman & Son, cigar manufacturer of Cardiff, was acquired for £680,000 in 1947 in order to gain access to the machine-made cigar market.

Gallaher acquired Cope Brothers of Liverpool, proprietor of the popular Old Holborn rolling tobacco brand, in 1952.

Tobacco rationing ended in 1955, and was to prove an impetus for the growth of Gallaher. Benson & Hedges was acquired, mainly for the prestigious brand name, but also to provide a further manufacturing site for Senior Service, in 1955. The acquisition also brought with it the Hamlet cigar brand.

Gallaher became one of the fastest-growing companies in Britain during the 1950s, largely due to its encroachment upon Imperial Tobacco’s market share. Senior Service and Park Drive had become respectively the third and fourth highest-selling cigarettes in Britain by 1959, and Gallaher held 30 percent of the British tobacco market. Other leading brands included Nelson, Du Maurier and Olivier cigarettes, Old Holborn and Condor tobacco and Manikin and King Six cigars.

De Stein retired as chairman in 1960.

Gallaher acquired J Wix & Sons, the fast-growing manufacturer of Kensitas cigarettes, from the American Tobacco Company for £13 million in 1961. The deal boosted Gallaher’s share of the British tobacco market from 30 to 35 percent.

A major new factory was established at Ballymena, Northern Ireland, in 1961.

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

Silk Cut was launched as a low-tar brand in 1964.

Gallaher employed 15,000 people in 1965.

Benson & Hedges was the leading king-size cigarette brand in Britain by 1966. However king-size cigarettes only held four percent of the total cigarette market.

Sales of unfiltered cigarettes, such as Park Drive, plummeted in the late 1960s. Gallaher was slow to address the new demand for filtered cigarettes, and its share of the total cigarette market had dwindled to 27 percent by 1968.

American Tobacco, the second largest cigarette manufacturer in the United States, acquired control of Gallaher after Imperial Tobacco divested most of its stake in the business in 1968.

Sales of Silk Cut began to grow rapidly in the early 1970s as increasing health concerns regarding tobacco led consumers towards the low-tar and reduced nicotine brand.

American Tobacco acquired full control of Gallaher in 1974.

Du Maurier cigarettes were discontinued in 1979.

Declining domestic market and overseas acquisitions
800 production jobs were lost in 1982 due to falling sales.

The Belfast factory was closed with the loss of 700 jobs in 1988. Production was relocated to Ballymena.

A cigar factory in Port Talbot, Wales was closed with the loss of 370 jobs in 1994.

American Tobacco listed Gallaher on the London Stock Exchange from 1997.

Liggett-Ducat, a Russian cigarette manufacturer, was acquired for £298 million in 2000. Gallaher invested a further £40 million in the business.

The Manchester cigarette factory was closed with the loss of nearly 1,000 jobs in 2000-1. Production was transferred to Ballymena, where 300 extra jobs were created.

Austria Tabak was acquired for £1.4 billion in 2001. The purchase brought with it market leading positions in Austria and Sweden.

Gallaher became the fifth largest cigarette manufacturer in the world.

Gallaher is acquired by Japan Tobacco
Gallaher was acquired by Japan Tobacco for £7.5 billion in 2007.

European headquarters were relocated from Britain to Geneva, Switzerland, in an effort to reduce tax, in 2008.

The Ballymena site, the last remaining tobacco factory in Britain, was closed with the loss of 860 jobs in 2017. Production was relocated to Eastern Europe.

Senior Service cigarettes were discontinued in Britain in 2020. Kensitas cigarettes remain available but with limited distribution.

Japan Tobacco held 45 percent of the British tobacco market in 2021.

A brief history of Imperial Tobacco

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

Background and formation
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 merger 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.

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

Salmon & Gluckstein, a retail tobacconist with 184 branches, was acquired for over £1.25 million in 1902, largely to prevent its acquisition by American Tobacco.

American Tobacco sold Ogden to Imperial in 1902, and both companies agreed to avoid 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.

Domination of the British tobacco market
Imperial Tobacco estimated it had “rather over 50 percent” of the British tobacco market by 1904. Woodbine was the highest-selling cigarette brand in the world.

Imperial Tobacco employed over 10,000 people by 1909, and three quarters of the workforce were female.

Imperial Tobacco held 87.5 percent of the British tobacco market in 1913. This share had declined to 72.5 percent by 1920, but included 91 percent of all cigarette sales.

Imperial Tobacco was the largest British public company by 1926.

Imperial Tobacco had seen its virtual monopoly on cigarettes corroded by the re-emergence of competitors such as Carreras, Gallaher and Godfrey Phillips by the late 1920s.

Imperial Tobacco employed 40,000 people across 27 factories by 1933.

Imperial Tobacco was the second largest industrial company in the world by 1937, outranked in market capitalisation by only General Motors.

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 Tobacco was the third largest company in the world outside the United States as measured by sales in 1957.

Wills Embassy was introduced as a filter cigarette from 1962. It was an overnight sensation, and was the highest-selling filtered cigarette in Britain by 1963. Embassy was the overall leading cigarette in Britain by 1965.

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 a seven percent share.

Relative decline of the business
Imperial Tobacco diversified away from tobacco from the 1960s and changed its name to Imperial Group in 1973.

Imperial Group’s share of the British cigarette market had declined to just 37 percent by 1986.

Hanson Trust acquired Imperial Group for £2.7 billion in 1986.

Hanson Trust sold off non-core assets, such as the Courage brewing business to Elders for £1.4 billion, the hotel and restaurant business to Trusthouse Forte for £190 million, and the Golden Wonder crisps business to Dalgety for £87 million. The Ross Youngs frozen seafood business was sold to United Biscuits for £335 million. The sauces business, including Lea & Perrins and HP, was sold to BSN for £199 million.

The core tobacco business was reorganised. The range of products was reduced from 44 to 11, with a focus on five core brands. Five factories were reduced to three, with 1,000 redundancies.

Imperial Tobacco was demerged from Hanson Trust in 1996.