Carreras Limited got its start in Spain in 1788, where it was founded by Spanish nobleman Don José Carreras y Ferrer. Don José fought in the Pennisular War under the Duke of Wellington, and was highly decorated, but was exiled from Spain due to his political views. He took his family and settled in London, England, where he continued on in the tobacco business and earned a great reputation for making fine cigars.
Don José died, and his business was inherited by his son, Don José Joaquin, who himself earned a reputation as a specialist in the blending of tobaccos and snuff. He established a new store at 61 Prince's Street (later redesignated Wardour Street), W 1, near Leicester Square, in 1852, and was honoured the following year by receiving a Warrant as sole supplier of cigars and tobacco to the Spanish Legation in London. Don José Joaquin opened another store on Regent Street, W 1, in 1866; among his clientele at that time were H.R.H. the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII), H.R.H. the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (both of whom bestowed upon Carreras Royal Warrents), and the Right Hon. George Grimston, 3rd Earl of Craven, after whom was named Carreras' Craven Mixture (and later, Craven "A" cigarettes). The Craven Mixutre would go on to become among Carreras' most popular blends; it received a boost when popular author J. M. Barrie revealed that in his 1890 story, My Lady Nicotine, the "Arcadia Mixture" of which he wrote was in fact based on the Craven Mixture. Carreras would go on to use Barrie's endorsement in Craven Mixture advertisements through the 1930s. A further honour was granted to Carreras with the granting of a Warrant from H.M. King Alfonso XII of Spain in 1874.
Carreras was sold to W. J. Yapp in 1894; Yapp was in the shoe-leather business, but saw the potential of the tobacco industry. Yapp teamed up with Bernhard Baron in 1903 and took Carreras public; Baron held the patent on a cigarette-making machine which could produce 450 cigarettes a minute (rival Imperial Tobacco held a monopoly on the Bonsack machine, which could only produce 200 a minute). Baron would gain control of the company by the following year, and his machine led to Carreras being able to mass produce cigarettes. Among the brands introduced at this time was Black Cat, which was the first brand to have a coupon redeemable for gifts included with every packet. The Baron family gained a reputation for treating their workers well; for example, on Bernhard Baron's birthday in December, all the workers were treated with two weeks' wages and a cake to take home.
Carreras continued to expand and thrive in the first decades of the twentieth century. A new factory, the first Arcadia Works, was opened on the City Road, EC 1, in 1907. In 1913, they acquired the tobacco firm of Alexander Boguslavsky, which made Piccadilly cigarettes. During the First World War, Carreras, like other tobacco companies, sent boxes of cigarettes to soldiers on the front, but unlike their competition, they also included useful items such as French dictionaries and grammar books. In 1921, Carreras brought out Craven "A" Cork Tipped cigarettes, the first mass-produced cigarette of its kind on the market.
Expansion continued during the 1920s with the opening of a state-of-the-art factory, the second Arcardia Works, on Mornington Crescent, NW 1 in 1928. It was the first factory in Britain to have air-conditioning; it also had a dust extraction plant, and the Baron family also provided a full welfare service for their workers. Perhaps its most unique feature was at its front doors, which were flanked by two six-foot, eight-inch metal black cats, who represented the Egyptian god Bastet. The cats remained on guard until the factory was closed in 1959 and were seperated; one went to the new factory in Basildon, Essex, while the other was shipped to Carreras' factory in Jamaica. Replicas of the cats were returned to their original positions when the building was extensively renovated by successive owners in the 1990s.
Acquisitions by Carreras following the opening of Arcardia Works included 1929's purchase of John Sinclair Ltd. of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and the purchase of a controlling interest in the Canadian Rock City Tobacco company in 1936. In 1952, Carreras leased from tobacconist and luxury goods manufacturer Alfred Dunhill the right to apply the Dunhill name to cigarettes in the United Kingdom, while in 1953, they purchased both R. & J. Hill Ltd. of London, and "Erinmore" pipe tobacco makers Murray & Sons Ltd. of Belfast.
In 1958, the Barons sold their shares in Carreras to the Rembrandt Tobacco Corportation of South Africa, who then merged Carreras with their subsidiary Rothmans of Pall Mall, forming the company Carreras Rothmans. This new company would end up being merged with other European tobacco companies to form Rothmans International in 1972.
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