Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco, also known as Genuine Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco, was a brand of loose-leaf tobacco sold starting in the 1850s and continuing until it was discontinued on 15 Aug 1988. Although very successful throughout its 130 year history, the company changed owners from time to time.
The company was based in Durham, South Carolina and its incredibly successful advertising campaign not only made it hugely successful, it made Durham the tobacco capital of the United States.
The tobacco was originally manufactured in a factory owned by John Ruffin Green. Introduced shortly before the American Civil War it was an immediate success and was popular with soldiers on both sides. Eventually the demand outgrew his ability to produce it.
In 1869 Green partnered with W.T, Blackwell and James R. Day to form J.R. Green and Company. The new investors each paid $1,500 for their share of the business. Shortly afterwards, Green died of tuberculosis and Blackwell bought out his portion of the business and the rights to the Genuine Durham Smoking Tobacco trademark from Green’s family for $2,292.
In 1878 Blackwell and Day were joined by Julian Shakespeare Carr with each man owning qon-third of the company. Carr was a graduate of the University of North Carolina and, with his help, the company continued to expand. A new factory was built. Warehouses were added and technology replaced workers.
Despite the profitability, the owners left to follow other pursuits. Blackwell and Carr bought out Day in 1878 for $50,000. In 1883 Blackwell sold his shares to other companies for $300,000. (We can only imagine how Day reacted to that news.) Carr stayed with the company until 1898 when he sold the majority of shares and the rights to “Bull Durham” for $2,500,000, considered to be a bargain at the time.
The Blackwell Company spent quite a lot of money on advertising. At the time this was considered to be risky but it paid off for them. Their bull logo became one of the most easily recognized logos of the time.
The advertising was done in magazines and huge outdoor painted signs. This made the product a household name. By now the American Tobacco Company owned the product and had connected Bull Durham with baseball in the public’s mind. In fact, the term “bullpen,” the location where pitchers warm up, may have come from Bull Durham.
The Company’s Decline
The company remained profitable until the use of tobacco products began to decline with the release of the Surgeon General’s report. The American Tobacco Company shut down its Durham facility in 1987.
The ghost sign is located on the side of the building located at 421 South Main Street, Galena, Illinois (Jo Daviess County).
The photo was taken using a Panasonic DMC-FZ50 camera. Then I used ACDSee Ultimate 10.4 to adjust the lighting and boost the contrast and vibrance.
Photo © 2012 Gary J. Sibio. All rights reserved.
Text © 2018 Gary J. Sibio. All rights reserved.