RVA Legends — Old Dominion Tobacco Works

RVA Legends — Old Dominion Tobacco Works

A look into the history of Richmond places and people that have disappeared from our landscape.

[IOR] — from an advertisement for Old Dominion Tobacco Works — note the boat docked beside the building
[IOR] — from an advertisement for Old Dominion Tobacco Works — note the boat docked beside the building

AKA Myers Brothers & Company
Nineteenth & Cary Streets
Built, 1850
Demolished, 2013?
VDHR 127-6722

Tobacco makers that mysteriously vanished.

(VCU) — 1889 Baist Atlas Map of Richmond — Plate 2 — note the absence of any waterway immediately adjacent to the building
(VCU) — 1889 Baist Atlas Map of Richmond — Plate 2 — note the absence of any waterway immediately adjacent to the building

Old Dominion Tobacco Works.—Manufacturers of Plug Tobacco, corner of 19th and Cary streets. Messrs. Myers Bros. & Co. are the proprietors of the “Old Dominion.” Fred. G. Myers and Jacob Edel, of Richmond, and Sigo and Herman Myers, of Savannah, compose the firm. About four years ago this firm came here from Lynchburg, and built their splendid factory

[USANJ] — Old Dominion Tobacco Works advertisement in the Army/Navy Journal
[USANJ] — Old Dominion Tobacco Works advertisement in the Army/Navy Journal

The building is 170 feet long, with two wings of no by 45 feet, and four stories high, with a basement, which is used for the storage of leaf in hogsheads. The first floor is the prizing and stock room, the second floor the lump makers’ room, the third floor the drying and picking room, and the fourth is the job room.

(Art.com) — 1867 advertisement for Love Tobacco, depicting “love” in the form Johnny Reb forking over his chaw to Billy Yank in exchange for some gwop
(Art.com) — 1867 advertisement for Love Tobacco, depicting “love” in the form Johnny Reb forking over his chaw to Billy Yank in exchange for some gwop

Enterprise has marked their footsteps since their advent in this city, and success has crowned their every effort. Fortunate, first, in having erected such a handsome and commodious structure, and in the selection of its name.

Second. In placing upon the markets, both foreign and domestic, such excellent brands of tobacco, as their specialties: “Fanny Edel,” “L. Rond,” “Epicure,” “Alarm,” “Love” “Old Sledge,” “Saratoga,” “ Old Dominion,” and “Tip Top.”

Third. In the selection of the most reliable agents in all the principal cities of the United States, to represent their goods.

(Pinterest) — Myers Brothers & Company tobacco label for Old Sledge, a cunning metaphor for its cancerous charms
(Pinterest) — Myers Brothers & Company tobacco label for Old Sledge, a cunning metaphor for its cancerous charms

Fourth. In having first carried off the palm over 27 competitors from various sections of the Union, by being awarded the contract for supplying the United States Government with tobacco for the Navy, Can any other establishment produce such a record? Pluck and unwavering fidelity to business has accomplished this result, right in this city, where there are at least forty factories.

(Find A Grave) — Sigo Myers
(Find A Grave) — Sigo Myers

The capacity of this factory is 3,000,000 pounds yearly. Hands employed, between 450 and 500. They have a large manufactory in Jacksonville, Florida, for making Key West cigars. This is in charge of Mr. Sigo Myers, while the making of the cigars is under the personal supervision of Mr. Gato, a Cuban, who is thoroughly qualified in the business.

(PicClick) — advertising tin for Fanny Edel plug tobacco, a prurient evocation of a young woman & the act of chewing
(PicClick) — advertising tin for Fanny Edel plug tobacco, a prurient evocation of a young woman & the act of chewing

In Savannah, Ga., they have a branch house, under the firm name of H. Myers & Bro., where they are jobbers of cigars, tobacco and liquors. This is managed by Mr. Herman Myers, who is President of the Savannah National Bank, a member of the City Council, and one of the founders of the “Daily Times.”

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 45 — showing the former Old Dominion Tobacco building under ownership of the U. S. Tobacco Co.
(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 45 — showing the former Old Dominion Tobacco building under ownership of the U. S. Tobacco Co.

If Richmond had a few more such live men as compose this firm, there would never be any ground for the assertion that is sometimes made in the daily press, that this market is losing prestige in the leaf order line. The advice to short-sighted members of the tobacco trade is, “stick close to your desks, and never go to sea, and you all may be rulers of Uncle Sam’s Navie.” Myers Bros. & Co. occupy the waters now. [IOR]

(Rocket Werks RVA Postcards) — showing Liggett & Myers Cigarette Factory No. 25, formerly located at Sixth & Cary Streets
(Rocket Werks RVA Postcards) — showing Liggett & Myers Cigarette Factory No. 25, formerly located at Sixth & Cary Streets

Let’s get a couple things straight right now. First of all the man’s name was Frederick S. Myers, not Frederick G. Myers, an aggravating erratum seemingly intended to thwart the future researcher. He died in 1893, not long after Industries of Richmond was published in 1886.

Second, Myers Brothers did not merge with Liggett & Myers. That company was created in 1873 when J. E. Liggett and Brother got jiggy with George Smith Myers of Missouri, not Frederick, Herman, and Sigo.

[IOR] — showing the complete advertisement for Old Dominion Tobacco Works
[IOR] — showing the complete advertisement for Old Dominion Tobacco Works
Third, despite the fact that the Industries of Richmond advertisement for Old Dominion Tobacco Works states its location as the “Cor. 19th & Cary Sts.“ and depicts a factory building, it is not one that actually stood at that location. Despite the proximity of the Kanawa Canal, no boat has ever sailed down either street. It must be showing the Savanna branch house.

September 2019 — looking towards Nineteenth & Cary Streets today
September 2019 — looking towards Nineteenth & Cary Streets today

So what happened to the business? Did they get bought out by, or transform into, U.S. Tobacco when Frederick died? There’s no evidence that they were swallowed up by Buck Duke’s ravenous American Tobacco Company, and they go unmentioned in the 1893 and 1903 editions of Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James. Curse the incomplete record!

As for the location itself, the entire south portion of the block between Eighteenth and Nineteenth along Cary was razed and reformed into today’s soulless and drab Canal Walk Lofts in 2013.

(Old Dominion Tobacco Works is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [IOR] Industries of Richmond. James P. Wood. 1886.
  • [USANJ] The United States Army and Navy Journal and Gazette of the Regular and Volunteer Forces: Volume 25. January 1, 1888.

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