Thinking allowed — 14 February 2017
Cigarette City tour

At one time London must have been rife with smokers, if the number of cigarette brands named after its roads, districts and London are anything to go on. The city was supposedly given the nomenclature ‘The Big Smoke’ though I’ve yet to hear it called by that name.

So the tour, given that thanks to Transport for London is continually gridlocked, is entitled ‘The Long Drag Tour’ and starts close by the London Palladium.

Philip Morris had a factory here in Great Marlborough Street which curiously our destination’s statue’s subject has as its family name.

Anyhow back to Philip Morris, some executive, being paid too much for dreaming up stuff, looked out of the window and saw the street name. Then knocking off the last three digits came up with the sexy Marlboro. To reinforce the macho image it was later branded using a cowboy riding across Arizona. Tragically at least four of the actors employed have died from smoking-related disease.

Right: Regent Street
Left: Oxford Street
Left: New Bond Street

Bond-Street

Philip Morris seemed to have a rather laissez-faire attitude to naming their brands. After opening a New Bond Street shop in 1847, using the same criteria for giving their brands a moniker, again looking out of the window in 1902 they gave their cigarettes the imaginative title of Bond Street, a rebranding from the old product called Old Bond Street.

Left: Clifford Street
Right: Burlington Street
Right: Burlington Gardens

Mayfair

While negotiating these three streets its worth remembering you are in Mayfair one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the world. Given that it’s a surprise that when Saatchi & Saatchi (itself based in Mayfair) decided to brand a cheap cigarette they chose the strap line ‘Mayfair: a good smoke at a fair price’. It wasn’t such good value when they reduced a pack of 20 to 19.

Left: the aforementioned Old Bond Street
Right: Stafford Street
Right: Dover Street
Left: Hay Hill
Left Berkeley Street

Berkeley

Which is, of course, another cigarette brand. This one is unlikely to be named after the famous Berkeley Square.

Left: Piccadilly

Piccadilly-advert

Carreras Tobacco Company had a showroom in Piccadilly and produced Piccadilly Circus cigarettes as well as plain old Piccadilly. Carreras were best known for their Black Cat cigarettes which by all accounts was a frequent visitor to their Wardour Street shop, not the cigarettes but the cat. But more about that, Egyptians, the opera Aida and chariot racing later.

Right: Duke Street, St. James’s

Dunhill

As you travel down this expensive street note on your right is one of the most prestigious cigarette brands in the world – Dunhill. The shop opened in 1917 retailing the ‘Windshield Pipe’ This indispensible addition to a gentleman’s apparel it combated the effects of wind and weather while driving an open top car.

Left: King Street
Comply: St. James’s Square
Left: Pall Mall

Pall-Mall

After selling roll-ups in Fleet Street Louis Rothman moved upmarket to Pall Mall launching his famous Pall Mall cigarette brand in 1902 and it would seem never looked back.

Forward: Pall Mall East
Right and Left: Trafalgar Square
Left: St. Martin’s Place

Cambridge

Ahead is Cambridge Circus. Was Cambridge cigarettes named after the cross roads which for years at the Palace Theatre hosted Les Misérables? No, I don’t think so either, more likely the, by now American company Philip Morris, chose the name of their brand from the famous university town. If they were still in London, whilst looking out of the window again, Palladium would probably have been chosen to grace the packets.

Right: Duncannon Street
Forward: Charing Cross Forecourt
Left: Strand

Probably the shortest lived cigarette in the world. Strand was manufactured between 1959 and 1960; hardly time for a couple of drags, but this cigarette is famous for its advert. Directed by Carol Reed with more than a nod to The Third Man.

A man enjoys his own company whilst walking in London ‘You’re never alone with a Strand’ was the catch line. Now the Strand has nose-to-tail traffic all day and night, you certainly never feel alone walking down this London street.

Craven-'A'

Passing Craven Street on our left. ‘For your throat’s sake, smoke Craven A’, went the convincing title advertising this popular World War II cigarette named after the Third Earl of Craven in 1860, who incidentally renamed Spur Alley – Craven Street prior to redeveloping the road in which Benjamin Franklin lived at number thirty-six.

Comply: King Charles Island
Leave by: Whitehall

Richmond

Half way down this important street you’ll find on the left Richmond Terrace. Built on the site of Charles Stuart, The 3rd Duke of Richmond’s house Richmond cigarettes are probably named after the Virginia City which was given that title by William Byrd in 1737 who saw a striking resemblance to Richmond in west London, which took its name from the aforementioned family.

Derby

Blink and you’ll miss it on the left as you continue to travel down Whitehall is Derby Gate, which would seem a good word to use if you wanted to name a horse race or a cigarette called Derby.

Forward: Parliament Street

Parliament

One has to wonder whether when choosing a name for a new cigarette a certain mischievous streak entered the conversation. Parliament cigarettes may have a rather grand name but on your right is HM Treasury who have, over time, exponentially jacked up the price of fags.

Forward: Parliament Square

Churchill

Ahead of you is a statute of a man from the Marlborough family, a prodigious smoker of cigars who has the Churchill brand of Havana cigars named after him and also, rather nearly, the road that was our starting point of our Long Drag Tour.

Footnotes:
Old-Holborn

Mention must be made of Old Holborn tobacco who took Staple Inn as their trade mark and who’s factory was in Clerkenwell next door to where the Maxim machine gun was invented for use in World War I. Who knows which has caused the most deaths.

Black-Cat

 

Greater London House: At that time the fashion for Art Deco and all things Egyptian was at its zenith, so thought Carreras why not? Ironically its architect, Marcus Collins, specialised in building synagogues had designed a Neo-classical front but changed his mind and decided to include Bastet the feline goddess of warfare to guard the doors, incorporate massive columns, copies of Akhenaten’s tome in Lower Egypt, a solar disc to the sun-god Ra, and for good measure studding the façade with black cat silhouettes. The factory produced two of the biggest selling brands of cigarette – Craven A and Black Cat. The locals, who in all probability could only afford Player’s Weights, lost their local communal garden area to a Russian-Jewish philanthropist who clearly did not extend his charity to the local populace when building his monstrosity.

When the factory was opened Mornington Crescent was covered with sand to replicate the deserts of Egypt; cast members from Verdi’s opera Aida formed a procession; and a chariot race was held on Hampstead Road.

Carreras moved out in 1959 and much of the Egyptian adornment was lost. Now restored with replica black cats once more on guarding the doors; and ironically, considering the detrimental effects caused from smoking, today a gym is to be found in the basement along with The British Heart Foundation offices.

Most images have been taken from Cigarettespedia an online cigarettes encyclopedia project.

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Gibson

(2) Readers Comments

  1. My understanding is that London was given the nickname ‘The Smoke’ because of the infamous ‘pea soup’ fogs with which it was afflicted in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These were caused by a combination of smoke from coal burned in domestic and business premises for heating and industrial pollution.

    One published reference to this nickname is to be found in the title of Margery Allingham’s novel The Tiger in the Smoke but I am sure that, if you look around, you will find many more.

    The Strand cigarette brand was shortlived because the advertising campaign ‘You’re never alone with a Strand’ suggested that those who smoked it were lonely social outcasts or, as we would now call them, ‘losers’ – not an image with which potential buyers would wish to identify.

    • I must admit I’ve never heard of London being called ‘The Smoke’ even though I have lived through the last of the pea soupers. Thanks for the information about Strand cigarettes, it makes perfect sense that the advertising would have put people off the brand. Strangely the advert is probably the only one I remember seeing about cigarettes.

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