R. J. Reynolds’s Tobacco Connection to King Edward VII

I live in North Carolina where for many years tobacco was “King.” Tobacco Road was an historic tobacco-producing area of central North Carolina. Among the many who rode the “tobacco wagon” to riches (until the 1980s when the U. S. enacted anti-smoking legislation) was the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which was based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and founded by Richard Joshua Reynolds in 1875.  


en.wikipedia.org R. J. Reynolds, circa 1890

Richard Reynolds grew up on his father’s Virginia tobacco farm. In 1875, the South was in the aftermath of Reconstruction following the Civil War (the War Between the States). Reynolds was but 21 when he decided to go into business for himself. Prior to that time, Richard was in a tobacco manufacturing partnership with his father. Reynolds traveled by horseback to Winston, North Carolina, and bought land on Chestnut Street. The factory was a red frame building about the size of tennis court. At the time Winston was a village of about 800 citizens, while Salem was a nearby hamlet. The factory cost young Reynolds some $2400. 

Reynolds used the rest of the money he had saved to purchase the tobacco leaves required for the production of chewing tobacco. Tobacco auction houses (I once worked in one of these.) are traditionally pay for the tobacco on the spot type of operations. Reynolds employed only two assistants with the sprinkling of “seasonal” workers. The products were shipped out to other states. 

imgresReynolds knew his first “great success” with the introduction of Prince Albert smoking tobacco in 1907. Prince Albert is one of the more popular independent brands of pipe tobacco in the United States; in the 1930s, it was the “second largest money-maker” for Reynolds. More recently, it has also become available in the form of pipe-tobacco cigars. The blend is burley-based and remains one of America’s top-selling pipe tobaccos. Richard named the tobacco after Edward VII, who was known as Prince Albert before being crowned King (after the passing of Queen Victoria). Reynolds acquired the portrait of Prince Albert which was used on the package from the author Mark Twain. (“Pipe Dream Girl.” Time Magazine. November 23, 1931.) 

Reynolds’s next great success was the company’s entrance into the cigarette arena. R. J. Reynolds launched the world’s first blended cigarette. He chose the name “Camel” because most of tobacco manufacturers at the time used “Oriental” names for their products, and Reynolds thought the Camel would suit the Turkish tobacco used in the new cigarette. 

702_001The image of the camel used on the package came about with the serendipitous arrival of the Barnum and Bailey Circus in Winston-Salem. An Arabian dromedary called “Old Joe” was one of the featured animals of the circus. It helped in gaining permission to take a picture of the camel that Reynolds had closed the factory and permitted his employees a day at the circus. A drawing was made from the photograph. In order to enhance the “Oriental” look, the artist added the palm trees and the pyramid to the rendering. Camel cigarettes were launched with a creative marketing campaign on 21 October 1913. On day one of the campaign placards bearing the image of “Old Joe” and the word “Camels” appeared. On the second day, new placards with the image and the words “The Camels are coming!” appeared. On the next day, the placards read “Tomorrow there’ll be more Camels in this town than in all Asia and Africa combined.” On the release date, the placards read “Camel cigarettes are here.” Eventually, the slogan of “I’d Walk a Mile for a Camel” was used. (For me, I was the one often walking a mile for Camels for they were my mother’s cigarette of choice. They also contributed to her death.) 

H&HThumbnailIronically, in North Carolina we have replaced one vice with another. Many of the former tobacco farms have been converted into vineyards. I used that idea as a key point in my contemporary Pride and Prejudice novel, Honor and Hope, in which the hero saves the heroine by purchasing the tobacco farm owned by her family. He adds the land to his vineyard. 


History of R. J. Reynolds


The Tobacco Industry and North Carolina 


About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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5 Responses to R. J. Reynolds’s Tobacco Connection to King Edward VII

  1. It is 25 years since I sucked on my last cigarette, September 1991, I had smoked Camel on occassion, and L & M, and Chesterfield and Players and Weights & Woodbines. shall I go on? Best thing I ever did when I stopped, had tried for years to stop smoking, my doc at the time prescribes some patches, they could only be had on dotors prescriptions, I affixed one patch and have never smoked since. I did the course until the doc said to stop as I was becoming allergic to the patches which had been getting smaller each 4 weeks,
    These patches are no longer available, the reason I believe is because they worked 100% and I suspect that the tobacco industry got them off the market

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