ManufacturerMacdonald Tobacco Company

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Macdonald Tobacco Company

The Macdonald Tobacco Company (originally called "McDonald") was founded in 1858 in Montréal, Canada East (now Québec), Canada, by brothers William Christopher and Augustine McDonald. Their fledgling company achieved major success during the American Civil War, when the Union states were unable to receive tobacco directly from the secessionist Conferderate states. Tobacco from the Southern states was shipped by boat to McDonald's factory in Montréal, where they processed it into plug and chewing tobaccos, and shipped it to the tobacco-starved Northern states.

In 1866, Augustine McDonald was bought out by his brother, and the name of the company was changed to W. C. McDonald, Tobacco Merchants and Manufacturers. The company adopted a heart-shaped logo which appeared on their products, along with their slogan, "The Tobacco with a Heart". In 1876, McDonald moved into a newer factory in downtown Montréal. In 1898, W. C. McDonald was knighted by Queen Victoria; at that time, he changed the spelling of his name to 'Macdonald'. W. C. Macdonald was a major philantropist, in part because he felt ashamed at having made his fortune through tobacco, and wished to put his money to uses which would benefit his fellow man. To this end, he contributed a lot of money to McGill University in Montréal, giving $13 million to endow a chair that would later contribute to funding the research by nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford. Macdonald would go on to have no less than four buildings on the McGill campus named after him, as well as Macdonald Park, on which Molson Stadium, McConnell Arena, and several other buildings were built. He also contributed to the building of educational institutions in Ontario and the Maritime provinces.

Macdonald died a bachelor in 1917, and bequeathed his company to Walter and Howard Stewart, who worked for him as clerks and were the sons of his trusted manager David Stewart. Walter would become president of the company after Macdonald's death, and he would begin to branch the company out into the manufacture of fine-cut tobacco and cigarettes, which Macdonald had eschewed. Among the fine-cut tobacco brands produced by the company were Daily Mail and Brier. In 1927, Macdonald Tobacco started an annual national curling championship, and used it as a means to sponsor their Brier brand; to this effect, it was called the Macdonald Brier, and it was sponsored by them until 1979. (It still runs today as the Tim Hortons Brier.)

Macdonalds began to manufacture cigarettes in 1922; among the brands introduced in the 1920s were British Consols, Scotch Blends, and Macdonald's Menthol. Their most famous brand was introduced in 1928 under the name of Macdonald's Gold Standard. The packages of this brand were marked "Export", by which the brand would later become exclusively known. Also, in keeping with the philantropic spirit of their founder, Macdonald also produced cigarette brands named after private institutions and service organizations, who would receive a portion of the profits of their brands' sales. Two examples of this include McGill cigarettes, created as a fundraiser for the university, and Canadian Legion cigarettes, which helped to support the Royal Canadian Legion, an organization helping men who served their country in war.

Beginning in the mid-1930's, Macdonald's cigarette brands were adorned by the portrait of a pretty Scottish woman dressed in traditional garb and wearing the Macdonald of Sleat tartan. The model for this trademark was Betty Annan Grant (1914 - 2004), who posed for a portrait painted by famous Canadian artist Rex Woods. The "Scottish Lassie", as she is affectionately known, was featured on nearly all of Macdonald's cigarette brands up until the 1970s, and remains on packages of Export "A" cigarettes to this very day.

During the Second World War, Macdonald Tobacco suffered from shortages of glycerine and cellophane needed for cigarette production. The company made it their policy to make certain that soldiers serving at the front received the best quality cigarettes, leaving the home front to experience the war shortages. This policy paid off well, as 50 per cent. of returning Canadian servicemen maintained a fierce loyalty for Export "A" cigarettes. While Exports remained Canada's most popular cigarette throughout the 1950s, Macdonald's share of the market slowly dwindled over time, due in part to the company's hesitation to advertise on television and radio.

In 1968, Walter Stewart died, and was succeeded by his son, David, who sought to modernize the Macdonald company. That same year, the company quietly withdrew the sale of Export Plain King Size; when the Canadian government's first rating of tar and nicotine levels came out, that brand had the dubious distinction of being the strongest cigarette sold in Canada at that time (with an average of 36 mg of tar and 2.4 mg of nicotine per cigarette). In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the company began to introduce new brands, such as Wedgewood, and Contessa Slims. In 1970, Macdonald Tobacco made a deal with R. J. Reynolds Tobacco to import their top three brands into Canada (Camel, Winston, and Salem).

The increasing ties to the American company helped lead to the Stewart family's sale of the company to Reynolds in 1974. The company was thereafter known as R. J. R. Macdonald. This led to the Canadian production of some of Reynold's brands and trademarks in the Canadian market, most notably Vantage and Cavalier. More was also imported into Canada begining in the mid-1970s. Also starting in the mid-1970s and continuing through the late 1980s, Macdonald vastly expanded the Export "A" line with a wide range of perceived strengths in flavouring.

In 1999, R. J. Reynolds' international concerns were bought by Japan Tobacco, or, more specifically, by Japan Tobacco International, created by Japan Tobacco and based in Geneva, Switzerland. This led to Reynolds' former Canadian branch to being renamed J. T. I. Macdonald. Currently, the company is in third place in the Canadian market, after Imperial Tobacco and Rothmans Benson & Hedges. Brands introduced since the Japan Tobacco acquistion include the relaunch of Macdonald Special as a discount brand, XS (a slim cigarette), Mirage (reputed to have less of a tobacco smell when smoked), and Fusion (with a fluted filter tip).

Current Brands

  • Camel {Imported from the United States}

Former Brands

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