Must-See RVA! — Larus & Brother Company

Must-See RVA! — Larus & Brother Company

A look into the history of Richmond places that are still part of our landscape.

May 2019 — looking toward 11 South Twenty-First Street
May 2019 — looking toward 11 South Twenty-First Street
  • 11 South Twenty-First Street
  • Built, 1900

Okay, once again, something’s wrong somewhere.

[RVCJ03] — same building, identified as 7-9 South Twenty-First Street
[RVCJ03] — same building, identified as 7-9 South Twenty-First Street

In 1877 a partnership between Charles D. Larus and Herbert C. Larus formed the Larus & Brother Company. This small tobacco company, based in Richmond, Virginia, received national recognition with Edgeworth pipe tobacco, which then became the international hallmark of the company. By the 1930s, Larus had expanded to manufacture cigarettes, operate distribution centers outside Virginia, sponsor national radio programs, and manage local radio and television stations.

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 46
(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 46

In 1877, Charles Dunning Larus and Herbert Clinton Larus purchased the Harris Tobacco Company at 1917 E. Franklin Street in Richmond, thus forming the partnership of Larus & Brother Company. Herbert Clinton Larus died in 1882 and his nephew, William Thomas Reed, became general manger and partner in the company. For the next ninety-two years, the Larus and Reed families operated one of the nation’s most successful small tobacco firms. Known internationally for its Edgeworth pipe tobacco, Larus was an important member of Richmond’s tobacco community until 1974, when it closed.

[RCVJ03] — Charles Dunning Larus
[RCVJ03] — Charles Dunning Larus

Larus & Brother Company originally manufactured chewing tobacco and pipe tobacco in a plug form. A year after its founding, Larus began operations at the state penitentiary and continued there until 1897, when the company moved to 7 S. Twenty-first Street. Operations continued at this location for more than three-quarters of a century as the company expanded to occupy most of the block bounded by Main, Cary, Twenty-first and Twenty-second streets. In 1900, Larus incorporated and issued stock.

(RubyLane) — Edgeworth pipe tobacco can
(RubyLane) — Edgeworth pipe tobacco can

In 1903, Larus introduced its Edgeworth trademark. Edgeworth Sliced tobacco, the first nationally advertised pipe tobacco, came packaged in sliced form instead of the more conventional plug form. Nine years later, Edgeworth Ready-Rubbed was introduced as the first pipe tobacco ready for smoking, as it came pre-sliced and “rubbed,” or broken into smaller pieces. Edgeworth quickly became America’s best-selling pipe tobacco in its price class.

(City of Richmond Real Estate Assessor) — view from the tunnel
(City of Richmond Real Estate Assessor) — view from the tunnel

With the purchase of the Reed Tobacco Company in 1913, Larus began to manufacture cigarettes. Reed Tobacco continued as the cigarette manufacturing subsidiary of the company and its brands included White Rolls, introduced in 1931, and Domino, introduced in 1933.

(Virginia Museum of History & Culture) — Edgeworth pipe tobacco advertisement
(Virginia Museum of History & Culture) — Edgeworth pipe tobacco advertisementbecause every stud knows that huffing a log on a sunny day at the beach makes you a chick magnet

Larus prospered and continued to expand, opening distributing companies in Boston (1932) and San Francisco (1934) and purchasing the Sparrow and Graveley plug tobacco plant in Martinsville, Va. in 1935. This latter venture proved unprofitable, as the plant was closed, and its operations transferred to Richmond in 1942. On November 2, 1925, WRVA radio, a wholly-owned Larus subsidiary, was licensed to operate in Richmond. (Virginia Museum of History & Culture)

[COC] — WRVA transmitting room & input equipment
[COC] — WRVA transmitting room & input equipment
Not just radio either, the Larus family expanded into the teevee market with the Richmond Television Corporation in 1953. By this time, however, the end of the road was coming. The company was dissolved just 15 years later in 1968, and all its assets were sold to other companies.

As to the mystery of the address, it wouldn’t be the first time that G. W. Englehardt got it wrong in his book for the Chamber of Commerce. This time it clearly looks like it was him and not bad information since the Sanborn map clearly shows addresses that corresponding to number 11 across the street.

(Larus & Brother Company is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [COC] A Century of Commerce. James K. Sanford. 1967.
  • [RVCJ03] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1903.

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