Thursday, November 11, 2010

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company - Interesting Facts

There may be much about the local power structure of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company you may not be aware of or has slipped your memory:
  1. R.J.'s father Critz Reynolds was one of the few Virgina Planters not bankrupted by the Civil War. 
  2. R.J. started out riding a wagon peddling his fathers chewing tobacco through the mountains of Virgina, Tennessee and Kentucky. Few had money so he would take whatever they had then sell it as he went or on his return for a profit. 
  3. R.J. Reynolds had an eye defect that apparently prevented him from visualizing words properly.
  4. On R.J.'s arrival in Winston there were 15 other tobacco companies in town, over time he would own most or put them out of business.
  5. When R.J. Reynolds rode into Winston in 1874, a 24 year old with $7,500 he purchased a site from the Town of Salem and stayed in the Jones Hotel in Salem.
  6. His reason for coming here - No railroad where he lived and the best "bright-leaf" growing in the silty soil of Forsyth County.
  7. His first plant was about the size of a tennis court and cost $2,400.00. 
  8. His first employees were 12 seasonal black workers.  
  9. Blacks swarmed to Winston in railroad box cars to work for the tobacco manufactures where most of the work was done my blacks. Many would stay just long enough to buy a new suit of clothes before returning home. Others left during the winter and returned when the factories reopened in the spring. Many were children and mothers would bring their children to work with them. 
  10. The tobacco companies took the lead in fighting regulations against child labor. 
  11. P.H. Hanes & Company (later a leader in textiles) was the biggest tobacco manufacture in Winston-Salem before being bought out of RJR.
  12. Prior to his marriage to Katharine Smith, 30 years his junior, Dick was the most eligible bachelor in town and his mother, brother and sister-in-law lived with him in his mansion on 5th Street where the County Library now stands.
  13. People who know nothing about Winston-Salem know it is the home of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.
  14. R.J. Reynolds imported so much cigarette paper and tobacco that Winston-Salem, 200 miles inland, was declared a port of entry. By 1916 the city was the eighth largest port of entry in the country.
  15. During the heyday, the company paid its local taxes by delivering a truckload of cash to the courthouse steps DAILY.
  16. In 1917 R.J. was the richest man in North Carolina paying $66,000.00 in income taxes more than double as much as any other North Carolinian. 
  17. On R.J.'s death in 1918 the company owned 121 buildings in Winston-Salem.
  18. Following his death it took company officials 41 years to muster the nerve to hang the portrait of other chief executives next to his in the board room.
  19. More than 18 billion Camel cigarettes were produced in 1921, when half of the cigarettes smoked in the United States were Camels. A few years later, the company turned out 30 billion Camels.
  20. In 1933 when city street bonds came due and the city was short R.J. Reynolds Tobacco paid its property taxed in advance. 
  21. By the 1934 R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company was considered one of the most profitable corporations in the world. It made two-thirds of all the cigarettes in the state, paid a fourth of the city's property taxes, and contributed $1.00 of every $2.50 in state income taxes. 
  22. During World War II, when man power was short, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company obtained permission to use German prisoners of war to produce cigarettes. 250 men from Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps were sent to Winston-Salem in 1945. 
  23. In 1975 the company embarked on a two billion dollar modernization of its plants including the construction of a huge manufacturing plant in Tobaccoville. The Tobaccoville plant began production in 1986.
  24. In the 1980's RJR was churning out over 1 billion dollars a year in profits.
  25. The traumatic $25.4 billion buyout of RJR Nabisco, the 19th largest corporation in America in 1989, was the largest business deal in history.This is documented in the book Barbarians At The Gate.
  26. The sale of RJR Nabisco brought $2.5 billion dollars into the Winston-Salem economy mostly to average citizens who had purchased stock religiously over 30 years. Most didn't desire to sell nor did they squander their earnings!

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