Spalding & Merrick Tobacco,
Life Span: 1868-1925
Location: Nos. 9, 11, 13 and 15 River Street
Chicago Tribune, March, 10, 1872
Ransom, wholesale dealer in stoves, is in a large four-story red brick building on the west side of River street, near the river. Opposite Ransom’s stove store is a large three-story brick building used by Spaulding & Merrick as a tobacco manufactory.
Glory of Chicago—Her Manufactories, the Industrial Interests of Chicago, S.S. Schoff, 1873
SPAULDING & MERRICK’S TOBACCO MANUFACTORY— 9, 11, 13 and15 River street—was established in 1864 capital invested, $150,000; number of employes, 175; weekly payroll, $1,500; annual production, 2,194,550 pounds; value, $1,250,- 000. Manufacture, as a specialty, fine-cut chewing and smoking tobacco. Their stock comes principally from Kentucky, of which they use 2,000 hogs heads a year. This is the largest establishment of the kind in the city. They paid a Government tax, for the first six months of the present year, of $219,455. Were burned out in same location, in the great fire, but commenced to rebuild immediately after. Their present building, of brick, three stories and basement, with a front on River street of 166 feet, was erected, and the works started, in just 72 days after the fire. They claim to have blown the first steam whistle in the burnt district.
Land Owner, February, 1874
The casual passer-by on River st. would be astonished did he know that the large building Nos. 9, 11, 13 and 15 is a perfect hive of human industry, almost without an equal in the country; that within its massive walls are many hundred human hands and heads, working like so many machines under the guidance of the various heads of departments, and uniting individual labor in a great whole to turn out a product whose consumption is world wide. Should he visit this extensive establishment he would be charmed with its vast working machinery, its perfect regularity, its well directed and carefully watched forces; and he would be pleased to learn that Chicago has such a manufactory in full blast, for a great manufacturing city we are rapidly growing to be.
Knowing the interest all our citizens feel in such great industrial establishments as this, our artist was dispatched with orders to make complete and graphic sketches of the different departments of these works, the result being the presentation of the elegant series of engravings on pages 24 and 25, which show carefully and true to life all the various processes employed turn out the immense annual product of the house. These pictures will be studied with interest, as few who use “the weed” are at all aware how it is prepared for the market.
OUR GREAT HOME INDUSTRIES.—THE MANUFACTURE OF TOBACCO AS CARRIED ON BY SPAULDING & MERRICK
AT NOS. 9, 11, 13 & 15 RIVER ST., CHICAGO.
① The Building; ② The Cutting Machines; ③ Sweetening the Tobacco; ④ Syrup Tanks; ⑤ Cylindrical Drying Machines; ⑥ Bins of Smoking Tobacco; ⑦ Casing Heds; ⑧ Drying Rooms; ⑨ Packing Room; ⑩ Grinding the Cutting Machine Knives; ⑪ Dry Cut Dressers’; ⑫ Packing Smoking Tobacco; ⑬ The Elevator; ⑭ Stripping Room; ⑮ Loft and Store Room; ⑯ The Printing Office; ⑰ Assorting Tobacco Leaf; ⑱ Assorting Tobacco Leaf.
Establishment of the Firm.
The firm of Spaulding & Merrick (Samuel G. Spaulding and Levi C. Merrick) was established in 1866 on State st., where they began the cutting of tobacco in a small way, and where they gradually increased their business by integrity and perseverance, up to the time of the great fire, to which their establishment became a victim. After that calamity they hastened to establish their works again, choosing the present location on River street, which is eligible and well adapted to their business, the building having been erected for their use by Judge Fuller, a well-known citizen, who adapted its interior to suit their various departments, and which is well fitted up, the vaults having Sargent & Greenleaf’s combination locks and all the modern improvements being incorporated.
Before making the tour of the workrooms, it may be well to state that since its establishment in this location, the business has grown to its present vast proportions, and that it is kept immediately under the eyes and control of the proprietors, whose energy and close attention it constantly requires and as constantly enjoys.
The Raw Material.
The large quantity of raw tobacco consumed by this firm is the best Kentucky leaf, about two-thirds of which is purchased in Cincinnati, and the balance comes from Louisville. It is received in Chicago in large hogsheads, weighing 1,200 pounds each, and is immediately, on its arrival, conveyed to the large store-room on the fourth floor, seen in the illustration. Here a large stock is constantly kept, being daily depleted to supply the workmen, and as regularly refilled with fresh supplies. From here we start with our artist to note
The Process of Manufacture.
Now go with us from the store-room by the elevator to the third floor, where the sorting-room is located. In this apartment a force of 25 girls and eight men are employed. The raw tobacco is here carefully assorted for the separation of the different grades, and prepared for the stemmers. From this floor it is conveyed to the basement, where 90 girls are employed in separating the stems from the leaf. The work in this room is all done by the “piece,” the wages paid averaging from $3.50 to $9.00 per weel, according to the ability and industry of the operative.
The cutting-room, seen in the engraving, is fitted with nine Dayton Improved Machines, of the most approved and expensive patterns which are used in the manufacture of fine-cut, and two machines used in the manufacture of smoking brands. In the use of these machines none but the most skilled and experienced workmen are employed.
The process of cutting being finished, the tobacco is then passed by the elevator to the second floor, where it is subjected to a dressing called the “wet cut,” and where the “shorts” are separated. It then passes to the large steam dryers, which are arranged with cloth screens. After being allowed to cool, it is subjected to a second dressing known as the “dry cut,” or finishing. It is then ready for packing, and is put up in packages of 10, 20 and 60 pound parcels, this being the required government size.
The smoking tobaccos are also cured on this floor by means of Watt’s Patent Dryer. By this process not over two hours is consumed before it is ready for packing for the market. On the first floor the smoking tobaccos of different brands are put up in quarter, half and one-pound packages, about forty girls being employed in this work, with the aid of ingeniously contrived machinery. The wages paid these operatives vary from $6 to $12 per week.
It is in this room that the Government stamps are affixed to the pacjakes, and Uncle Sam receives $2,000 per day for allowing his stamps to adorn the daily product.
The Printing Office.
A large printing press is employed for printing the various labels for the packages, about 30,000 of such labels being turned out each day. In fact, there is little business done now-a-days that does not require aid of the printer in some way or another.
Employes, Product, Tax, Etc.
In this large working mechanism are employed about two hundred persons, the weekly pay-roll amounting to about $1,500. The whole product manufactured during the year 1873 was 2,294,834 pounds, and the Government tax paid thereon was $458,966.80.
Quality of the Product, Etc.
Of the quality of the different brands of tobacco manufactured by Spaulding & Merrick, it is only necessary to state that they are universally popular among wholesale grocers and jobbers, with whom they deal exclusively. Of their different brands the one that has attained the greatest popularity is the “Charm of the West,” which has become a household phrase, this brand being known wherever tobacco is used. They have a very extensive and constantly increasing trade, having customers in every State in the Union, and shipping goods as far west as Portland, Oregon.
During the late panic these works were run on full time at no reduction of wages. The force is now being increased, and is working twelve hours a day.
Our readers who have followed us through this interesting establishment, and who have carefully examined the engravings, cannot fail to now have a good idea of this extensive industry, which is carried on so successfully here in our very midst. It is a thorough Chicago enterprise, destined to still greater success and still greater expansion.
Inter Ocean, June 1, 1877
The Tobacco Warehouse of Spaulding & Merrick Seriously Damaged by Fire This Morning.
About 12:15 o’clock this morning an alarm from box 14 rang out distinctly through the still, sultry air, and was followed a few minutes later by a “second,” indicating that a fire of some magnitude was in progress. Fortunately, as it happened, the blaze was not an extraordinarily large one, but it occurred in such a thickly built portion of the city, one of the great business districts, in fatc, it was deemed necessary to have a good combating force on hand. The damaged building is composed of Nos. 9, 11, 13 and 15 River street, occupied by Messrs. Spaulding & Merrick, the largest manufacturers of tobacco in the country. The fire was first discovered by the watchman, Chris Peterson, as he was making his rounds. On the sixth floor of the building Peterson smelt smoke very strongly, and immediately turned in an alarm, but before it had done sounding every window on the floor was filled with flame. The department turned out very quickly, and the first arrival saw the necessity of turning in a”second.” From the inflammable nature and large quantity of stock, principally leaf and chewing tobacco and light boxes, and the great hold had almost demolished the sixth floor before any water can be brought to bear on it. The fire spread downward to the fifth and fourth floors, but the damage here by the flames were very slight, the firemen getting in some splendid work, taking a hose up stairs inside the building, and fighting the fire upward from the fourth and fifth on to its original place, the sixth floor, where, in the course of some forty minutes, it was subdued.
The building, which is a six-story brick, is owned by Judge Fuller, and fully insured. The damage to the building is probably some $5,000. Messrs. Spaulding & Merrick’a loss on stock is in the neighborhood of $15,000, mainly by smoke and water. They carried a stock valued at about $65,000, and the loss is pretty well covered, but it as impossible at the time to get, the companies in which the insurance is effected. The fire originated in the drying room on the sixth floor from a defective flue.
The Fire Department performed some very active and effective work on this occasion, and more than one courageous feat might be noted of several individual members of the brigade. To their daring and skill the owners of the property are indebted for the saving of the building from the contemplation of another horror of devastation. The fire-escape ladder was promptly on the ground, and just as the huge building seemed to be on the point of becoming one mass of flame some of those bold fellows who handle the hose were seen through the smoke and flame, and by a skillful combination of forces, succeeded in quenching the flames ere they reached the lower stories, which, in that event, would have been consumed, with perhaps half of the block adjoining it.
Spaulding & Merrick
Nos. 9, 11, 13 and 15 River Street
Robinson Fire Insurance Map
Inter Ocean, June 17, 1894
WAREHOUSE ON MICHIGAN STREET.
A Nine-Story Structure to Be Erected Soon.
A nine-story brick warehouse will shortly be erected on the north side of Michigan street between Rush and Pine streets. Messrs. Spaulding & Merrick will erect the building, which will cost about $150,000, and the plans have been drawn by Architect F. Alschlager. It will be 150 feet front on Michigan street and 100 feet in depth to an alley. The front will be of brick with stone trimmings, and the interior will be of mill construction. The lower portion will be occupied as a tobacco warehouse, and the upper floors for general warehouse purposes.
Chicago Tribune, December 19, 1909
The four story building at 106 to 116 East Michigan (Hubbard) leased to James S. Kirk & Co. and the Chicago Mercantile company for a term beginning Jan. 1, 1910, at an aggregate rental to both firms of $90,000.
Spaulding & Merrick
Michigan (Hubbard) and Rush Streets
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map
SPAULDING & MERRICK TRADE CARDS.
Beginning in 1889, Spaulding & Merrick issued trade cards which featured advertising on the back of their products. All Spaulding & Merrick sets have various brands printed on them, including Echo Tobacco, Plow Boy, and Canada Chop. The size pf the cards are 1 3/4 inches x 2 7/8 inches.
Actors & Actresses—1889
This set may also contain a few cards of boxers, of which only two are known to exist—John Sullvan and Jake Kilrain.
Spaulding & Merrick issued a group of colorized American Indian photos probably around 1910-1912. These aren’t cards; they’re printed on thin paper and may have been issued as promotions. There are 10 known. The size of these images are 5½ x 8½ inches.
Plow Boy Cabinets—Chicago Baseball Players—1910
This set was issued in 1910 by Spaulding & Merrick as a premium with their Plow Boy long cut tobacco product. The cards measure 5 3/4″ x 8″, which likely makes them the biggest issue known. It is believed the set could contain as many as 50 cards. Twenty-five are shown below. Very rare and highly collectible.
Chicago Cubs Collection
FIRST ROW: Ginger Beaumont, Mordecai Brown, Granck Chance, King Cole
SECOND ROW: Solly Hoffman, Johnny King, Rube, Kroh, Fred Luderus
THIRD ROW: Tom Needham, Jake Pfeister, Lew Richie, Jimmy Heckard
FOURTH ROW: Rollie Zeider, Plow Boy Back
Chicago White Sox Collection
FIRST ROW: Lena Blackburne, Bruno Block, Ed Collins, Patsy Dougherty
SECOND ROW: Ed Hahn, Frank Lang, Charlie Mullen, Billy Purtell
THIRD ROW: Frank Smith, Billy Sullivan, Ed Walsh, Irv Young
VELVET BRAND TOBACCO.
The Weekly Democrat-Chief (Hobart, Oklahoma), October 7, 1909
H.R. Decker, of Enid, representing the Spaulding & Merrick Tobacco Co. of Chicago, was a pleasant and welcome visitor at this office Monday morning. Mr. Decker is one of the very few men we know who go around the country giving away something for nothing, and he does it in a way which makes the recipient feel that he is actually doing the donor a favor. He is distributing samples of “Velvet” smoking tobacco, and we must say that if the “weed” is as smooth and pleasant as the genial salesman, it is sure to be a great seller.
St. Louis Star and Times, February 14, 1912
“Velvet—The Coast to Coast Favorite,” might be used as a slogan by the Liggetti & Meyers Tobacco Company for its best selling brand of tobacco, “Velvet,” the tobacco which, in the four brief years of its existence, has become famous all over the continent, has won the affection of many of the suitors of “My Lady Nicotine.”
The Liggett & Meyers Tobacco Company has made St. Louis the distributing center of three “smokers’ delights,” “Velvet Tobacco,” Fatima Cigarettes” and “Duke’s Mixture.” The “Velvet” is the star brand, it being the greatest seller of any tobacco, with the exception of one brand, in the United States. Its sale is, however, not restricted to America alone, but reaches around the world.
The greatest care is exercised in the selection of the tobacco for the “Velvet” brand. Only the finest that Kentucky can grow will do. After it is taken from the field it is put away for two years, to be seasoned, then it goes through a special process of the company.
“The growth of the sales has been little short of marvelous,” says Mr. Ortmann, manager of this department of the business. “We are sending out more of the tobacco in a month now than we did in a year two years ago.”
Mr. Ortmann says the advertising of the company is a great benefit to St. Louis, for, although they have many branch offices in other cities, St. Louis is the largest, and its name is always displayed in larger type.
“Velvet,” the much advertised and popular brand, was formerly distributed from the factory of the Spaulding & Merrick Company of Chicago. Under the direction of constituent factories ordered by the courts when the American Tobacco Company was declared a trust, the Liggett & Myers company acquired the Spaulding & Merrick company, and with it the “Velvet” brand.
The transfer brought to St. Louis the great advertising and selling force superintending the distribution of “Velvet,” and the campaign is now being conducted at the Liggett & Myers offices here.
An order of 300,000 cases of “Velvet,” shipped to San Francisco, was the first consignment fron St. Louis.
The Tobacco Trust.
The Spaulding and Merrick Tobacco Company was actually one of about 65 different companies which were owned by the American Tobacco Company of Durham, N.C., organized in 1909 and known as the Tobacco Trust. Other well-known companies at the time under this umbrella were the Liggett Myers Tobacco Company of St. Louis, Allen and Ginter of Richmond, Nall & Williams of Louisville, John Bollman Company in San Francisco, Pinkerton Company in Toledo, and W. R. Irby of New Orleans.
Since the U. S. Government is not interested in allowing monopolies, in 1911, the American Tobacco Company was broken up into separate companies including R. J. Reynolds Co., Liggett & Myers, Lorillard Co., while retaining some of the entity under the American Tobacco entity.
After the break-up, Liggett & Myers kept control of these plants: Liggett and Myers, St. Louis; Spaulding and Merrick, Chicago; Allen and Ginter, Richmond; smoking tobacco factory in Chicago; Nall and Williams, Louisville; John Bollman Company, San Francisco; Pinkerton Company, Toledo; W. R. Irby, New Orleans; two cigar factories in Baltimore and Philadelphia, and the Duke-Durham branch of the American Tobacco Company.
With the breakup of the American Tobacco Company many of the brand which propelled the company to such success were simply not promoted as much as they had been historically under the new ownership, so brands like Sweet Burley simply started to sell in lesser quantities over time. By 1925, the Spaulding & Merrick brand was removed from the market.
Spaulding & Merrick “Good Old Summer-Time” brand tobacco.