117 South Seventh Street
403 South Seventh Street
Sixth & Canal Streets NE
Sixth & Canal Streets SW
A tobacconist that named a law school.
The T. C. Williams Company, tobacco manufacturers at the foot of Seventh street, operates here, as a single concern, two of the largest factories, making plug and twist chiefly, and fine export tobaccos largely, not of Richmond only, but of the United States.
This company was incorporated in 1889, upon the death of the late Thomas C. Williams (from whom it takes its name), as successor to the old firm of Thomas C. Williams & Co., whose predecessor was James Thomas, Jr., established more than fifty years ago. It has $400,000 capital stock.
The output of its two factories is from 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 pounds of finished stock annually. It furnishes employment to some 700 hands, and is, perhaps, the best known concern of the trade here to the dealers in foreign lands.
It was a notable establishment before the war, even, and is still manufacturing many of the brands that were originated by it then. It is best known, perhaps, by its famous “Lucy Hinton” brand; scarcely less so, however, than by numerous others, among them the following:
“Mattaponi,” “May Apple,” “Nosegay,” “Paris Medal,” “Golden Eagle,” “Plum,” “Old Dominion,” and many others for domestic consumption; and for foreign trade, “Imperial Ruby,” “Bird’s-Eye Twist,” “Victory,” “Golden Eagle,” “Mabel,” “Juno,” “Janus,” etc.
It is hardly necessary to go into details concerning the processes of manufacture in this establishment. It is sufficient to say, in that respect, that its management is in the hands of experts in the business of life-long identification with it, and that its fame, both in this country and abroad, conclusively establishes the superiority of its products.
The late T. C. Williams was manager of it for the founder of the business before he reached the head of it himself; and to his efforts, in large part, the development of this trade is due. He succeeded Mr. Thomas in 1862, and the firm of T. C. Williams & Co. succeeded him in 1886.
Robert S. Bosher, James T. Parkinson and Thomas C. Williams, Jr., were his partners in that firm. Mr. Bosher is president of the company now; Mr. Williams, vice-president; Mr. Parkinson, superintendent; and Mr. W. S. Wortham, secretary and treasurer.
Mr. J. C. Knox manages the company’s “No. 2” factory. Mr. Bosher is a native of the city, and has been with the house from his sixteenth year. He may certainly be said to have been raised to the business. Mr. Parkinson has been in the business twenty-two years; Mr. Wortham seventeen years; and Mr. Williams eight or ten years. [RVCJ93]
T. C. Williams was another of those tobacco men who also dabbled in railroads and banks, and became stinking rich in the process. He was also a trustee of Richmond College and gave generously to that institution.
When he died at the relatively young age of 57 in 1899, the family donated $25,000 as an endowment for the Richmond College law school, which was named the T.C. Williams School of Law in 1920. Sadly, UR rebranded it as the University of Richmond School of Law in recent years and lost the connection to its early benefactor. (Find A Grave)
As for the company, in 1903 it was gobbled up by the British-American Tobacco Company, a joint venture of Imperial Tobacco and the American Tobacco Company as part of their tobacco war truce. T. C. Williams continued to operate as a subsidiary in Petersburg, but eventually, the company vanished. (Duke University Libraries)
As for the factory locations, the 1893 edition of Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James doesn’t tell the whole story. It says that the business operated “at the foot of Seventh street”, and Baist shows both of these South Seventh Street locations as belonging to the James Thomas Estate, so they are likely the originating factories.
However, Baist also shows the Sixth Street addresses under the ownership of T. C. Williams, so the business expanded to four locations by 1889. Unfortunately, Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James is aggravatingly silent as to where each of the three illustrated buildings actually stood. The tentative identification here is purely guesswork based on orientation and topography.
(T. C. Williams Tobacco Company is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
- [CDRVA] Chataigne’s Directory of Richmond, Va. J. H. Chataigne. 1881.
- [RVCJ93] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1893.