British-American Tobacco Company records, 1842-1929

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British-American Tobacco Company.
150 Linear Feet (372 volumes)
372 Items
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The British-American Tobacco Company, Ltd., was established in 1902 by an agreement between the Imperial Tobacco Co. of Great Britain and its rivals, the American Tobacco Co. and its associates. These firms divided the world's market for manufactured tobacco products, and British-American took over trade with those territories not reserved to Imperial and American, that is, the export business everywhere outside Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Cuba, and the U. S. and its overseas dependencies. Ownership of British-American was divided between its parent companies, American holding substantially two-thirds of the stock. The headquarters was located in London, England, and the office at 111 5th Ave. in New York City handled the purchase of leaf and manufacturing in the U. S.

This collection concerns British-American's business at Petersburg, Virginia, which included the branch under its own name and also the operations of its subsidiaries and predecessors. In 1903 the company acquired the formerly independent export businesses of the T. C. Williams Co., David Dunlop, and the Cameron family who were then the largest exporters of manufactured tobacco. They also had sales within the United States, so some domestic business is represented. British-American owned all of the stock of T. C. Williams and two-thirds of Dunlop's, both of these subsidiaries continuing to function under their own names, chiefly as producers of plug tobacco. However, the manufacturing of their brands was concentrated in a single bonded warehouse at Petersburg, a situation reflected in many account books that combine records of Dunlop, Williams, and British-American. There are also several volumes from the Bland Tobacco Co. of Petersburg and the Export Leaf Tobacco Co., the latter a subsidiary of British-American that functioned as its buying agency in the U. S. Further information about these companies is given below where their records are listed. A useful source for the early history of British-American is the U. S. Bureau of Corporations, Report of the Commissioner of Corporations on the Tobacco Industry (Washington, 1909). A folder of information about the companies and their owners is filed with the Guide in a box at the beginning of the collection. The Tobacco Collection includes examples of advertising.

This set of 367 account books represents the operations of British-American at Petersburg primarily during its first twenty years, 1903-1923, of which the first ten years have the more abundant records. The accounts of one subsidiary, David Dunlop, begin in 1842, continue into the 1920's, and constitute the most substantial group within the collection. Records of T. C. Williams are confined almost entirely to the period after 1903 when it was British-American's subsidiary, although the firm originated in the 1850's. Cameron & Cameron also began in the 1850's, but its records are limited to the last twelve years of its existence, 1892-1904. There are also a few volumes for the Export Leaf Tobacco Co., the Bland Tobacco Co., and William Cameron & Brother.

The account books are extensive and include significant records, but they are quite incomplete. Only David Dunlop has a considerable series of ledgers and journals. There are no minutes from meetings of directors or stockholders. The strength of the collection before 1903 is in the Dunlop records with the addition after 1892 of some from Cameron & Cameron, principally letterpress books. After 1903 there are elaborate cost, production, sales, and stock records for British-American, Dunlop, and T. C. Williams. Correspondence is very limited but includes some important material, there being volumes for David Dunlop in 1842-1846 and 1904-1906, T. C. Williams in 1903-1906, and Cameron & Cameron in 1895-1903.

Acquisition information:
The British-American Tobacco Company Records were purchased by Duke University in 1945.
Processing information:

Processed by: William R. Erwin, Jr.

Encoded by Stephen Douglas Miller

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.

Tobacco industry -- United States
Cameron and Cameron
David Dunlop (Firm)
D.B. Tennant and Company
British American Tobacco Company
Bland Tobacco Company (Petersburg, Va.)
T.C. Williams Company
Export Leaf Tobacco Company
Petersburg (Va.) -- Industries
Virginia -- Economic conditions


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The copyright interests in the British-American Tobacco Company Records have not been transferred to Duke University. For further information consult the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], British-American Tobacco Company Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.