Larus & Brother Company

A Guide to the Larus & Brother Company, Richmond, Virginia, Records, 1877-1974
Call Number Mss3 L3297 a FA1


Main Entry: Larus and Brother Company (Richmond, Va.)
Title: Records, 1877-1974.
Size: Ca. 10,000 items.
Historical Note: In 1877, Charles Dunning Larus and Herbert Clinton Larus purchased the Harris Tobacco Company at 1917 E. Franklin Street in Richmond, thus forming the partnership of Larus & Brother Company. Herbert Clinton Larus died in 1882 and his nephew, William Thomas Reed, became general manger and partner in the company. For the next ninety-two years, the Larus and Reed families operated one of the nation’s most successful small tobacco firms. Known internationally for its Edgeworth pipe tobacco, Larus was an important member of Richmond’s tobacco community until 1974, when it closed.
Scope Note:

Concern the tobacco manufacturing firm of Larus & Brother Company, Richmond, Va.; the holding company, Larus Investing Company, Richmond, Va.; and the tobacco manufacturing firm, House of Edgeworth, Richmond, Va. Include minute books; ledgers; journals; cash books; scrapbooks; correspondence; work papers; audio tapes; advertising and packaging materials; and miscellany.

Also, concern the Richmond subsidiaries: WRVA-Radio (1925-1969); WRVA-FM (1948-1969); Richmond Television Corporation (1953-1971); Reed Tobacco Company (1912-1969); Sparrow and Gravely Company, Martinsville, Va. (1935-1942); Edgeworth Distributing Company, Boston and San Francisco (1932-1943); Charcoal Industries, Inc., Greenville, S.C. (1960-1964); and Terrace Products Company, Roxbury, Va. (1961-1964).

Also, concern the following Richmond-based businesses: Cone-Reed Tobacco Company (1892-1904); and A. Maupin and Company (1896-1900).

Provenance: Gift of Larus & Brother Company, Richmond, Va., 17 December 1985.
Restrictions: None.

Collection Description

In 1877, Charles Dunning Larus and Herbert Clinton Larus purchased the Harris Tobacco Company at 1917 E. Franklin Street in Richmond, thus forming the partnership of Larus & Brother Company. Herbert Clinton Larus died in 1882 and his nephew, William Thomas Reed, became general manger and partner in the company. For the next ninety-two years, the Larus and Reed families operated one of the nation’s most successful small tobacco firms. Known internationally for its Edgeworth pipe tobacco, Larus was an important member of Richmond’s tobacco community until 1974, when it closed.

Larus & Brother Company originally manufactured chewing tobacco and pipe tobacco in a plug form. A year after its founding, Larus began operations at the state penitentiary and continued there until 1897, when the company moved to 7 S. Twenty-first Street. Operations continued at this location for more than three-quarters of a century as the company expanded to occupy most of the block bounded by Main, Cary, Twenty-first and Twenty-second streets. In 1900, Larus incorporated and issued stock.

In 1903, Larus introduced its Edgeworth trademark. Edgeworth Sliced tobacco, the first nationally advertised pipe tobacco, came packaged in sliced form instead of the more conventional plug form. Nine years later, Edgeworth Ready-Rubbed was introduced as the first pipe tobacco ready for smoking, as it came pre-sliced and “rubbed,” or broken into smaller pieces. Edgeworth quickly became America’s best-selling pipe tobacco in its price class.

With the purchase of the Reed Tobacco Company in 1913, Larus began to manufacture cigarettes. Reed Tobacco continued as the cigarette manufacturing subsidiary of the company and its brands included White Rolls, introduced in 1931, and Domino, introduced in 1933.

Larus prospered and continued to expand, opening distributing companies in Boston (1932) and San Francisco (1934) and purchasing the Sparrow and Graveley plug tobacco plant in Martinsville, Va. in 1935. This latter venture proved unprofitable, as the plant was closed, and its operations transferred to Richmond in 1942. On November 2, 1925, WRVA radio, a wholly-owned Larus subsidiary, was licensed to operate in Richmond.

For five weeks during the First World War, Larus’ entire production was requisitioned by the United States Government. Again during World War II, most of the company’s resources were directed toward providing tobacco products for the armed forces, American Red Cross, United Service Organizations, and other war-related agencies. One war-time project involved the manufacture of cigarettes in packages of four, inscribed with the words, “I Shall Return,” and the signature of General Douglas MacArthur. These were secretly distributed throughout the Philippine Islands.

In 1942, Larus acquired Holiday, one of the first brands of aromatic smoking tobacco to be marketed nationally. Pipe tobacco continued as the company’s major product, with Edgeworth and Holiday its best sellers. However, profits gradually declined as more and more American smokers switched from pipes to cigarettes. As the tobacco industry offered little room for growth, Larus sought to diversify. In 1953, the Richmond Television Corporation, a Larus subsidiary, was granted a license to broadcast and station WRVA was established. In 1960 Larus purchased Charcoal Industries, Inc., and the following year opened its own charcoal plant under the name Terrace Products Company. Both charcoal operations were closed in 1964 and the television station was sold in 1968.

On June 10, 1968, Larus & Brother Company was dissolved and a new corporation, Larus Investing Company, established as a holding company for three subsidiaries: WRVA-Radio, WRVA-FM, and the tobacco subsidiary, Larus & Brother Company. At this time, WRVA-TV was sold to the Jefferson Standard Broadcasting Company of Charlotte, N.C. On October 18, 1968, the tobacco subsidiary, Larus & Brother Company, was sold to Rothman’s of Canada, Limited, and the following year, WRVA-Radio and WRVA-FM were sold to the Southern Broadcasting Company of Winston-Salem, N.C. Larus Investing was then dissolved. Rothman’s continued tobacco operations in Richmond under the name House of Edgeworth until 1974, when the company was closed.

The records of Larus & Brother Company include minute books, scrapbooks, general ledgers, miscellaneous bound volumes, reports, statements, correspondence, work papers, audio tapes, and advertising and packaging materials of Larus and its various subsidiaries. materials pertaining to the non-tobacco entities, WRVA, Richmond Television Corporation, and the two charcoal operations, are arranged at the end of the collection. Researchers should note that minute books, general ledgers, audit reports and tax returns also contain information on Larus’ subsidiaries. The collection is arranged in a roughly chronological fashion, with the original organization maintained where possible. Researchers should read this description and guide thoroughly before requesting materials.

The collection contains very little material documenting operations at Franklin Street and the state penitentiary. Only a copy of the original charter (Found in box 3), a cash book from 1893-1894, and two miscellaneous general ledgers, one of the Cone-Reed Tobacco Company from 1894 to 1900 and the other of A. Maupin and Company from 1896-1900, relate to this period. These two companies were apparently ventures entered into by William Thomas Reed (1867-1935). Loose materials from these two ledgers primarily consist of account information and tax receipts, but also includes some of Reed’s personal correspondence.

The rest of the records relate to the company following incorporation in 1900. These begin with fourteen volumes of corporate minute books, 1900 to 1969. The first three volumes, 1900-1942, contain director and stockholder minutes, charters, by-laws, proxies, statements, notices, directors’ letters of resignation, amendments, resolutions and State Corporate Commission acknowledgments. Beginning in 1943, minutes were kept separately in executive committee, director and stockholder minute books and these eleven volumes follow in roughly chronological order. Also in 1943, typescripts of minutes previously attached to pages in minute books were kept separately. Boxes 1 and 2 contain loose materials from the first tow minute books, an index of minute books 1 to 4, and stockholder, director and executive committee records of the company from 1943 to 1968.

Following the first two boxes of loose materials are fifty-six general ledgers. The first forty-four of these represent a complete set of general ledgers of Larus & Brother Company and its successors, Larus Investing Company and the House of Edgeworth, from 1899-1972. The first volume contains only a few pre-1900 entries. Until 1908, ledgers contained individual customer accounts as well as an accounting of the varius Larus departments. After 1908, ledgers contain only information on assets, liabilities and capital, and income and operating expenses. Charts of accounts from 1962 to 1966 are located in box 10 and will assist the researcher in clarifying information contained in the ledgers for these years. Following the Larus ledgers are general ledgers for the Reed Tobacco Company, Edgeworth Distributing Company of Boston, Edgeworth Distributing Company of the Pacific Coast, and Sparrow and Graveley.

A few miscellaneous bound volumes follow the general ledgers and some of these require extra description. The 1893-1894 cash book also contains information on tobacco recipes in 1913. A 1921-1938 daybook kept in the cutting department records the amount of tobacco cut and packed for each brand as well as deliveries of tobacco. The scrapbook contains newspaper clippings on various members of the board of directors and their families. Eight price books contain domestic and export prices as well as information on private brands. Loose materials from the ledgers and miscellaneous volumes are located in box 3.

Twelve boxes of loose records (boxes 3 to 14) follow the bound volumes. These begin with the ledger and bound volume loose materials, general historical information on Larus, WRVA, and the Reed and Larus families, copies of corporate papers, and a folder of company policies and procedures arranged alphabetically by subject. A series of audit reports containing balance sheets and profit and loss statements from 1919-1969 precede materials relating to the Edgeworth Distributing Company of Boston and the Pacific Coast. This material includes charters, minutes, articles of incorporation, stock certificate books and papers relating to the dissolution of these companies.

In 1935, Larus purchased the Sparrow and Graveley plug tobacco plant in Martinsville, Va. The records mostly concern the purchase of the plant and its closing seven years later. A folder of damage reports to the tobacco warehouse during the 1936 flood precedes materials documenting Larus’ dealings with the federal government during the New Deal. Office of Price Administration materials include correspondence, information on regulations, and reports. Much of this correspondence concerns an OPA regulation, enacted in August 1942, placing a ceiling on the amount producers could pay for tobacco at auction. Other correspondence documents Larus’ request for a price increase for Edgeworth tobacco in 1944. The scarcity of tin necessitated packaging tobacco in more expensive glass containers, which meant an increase in cost. The OPA granted the request. Folders pertaining to the Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service contain mainly certificates, forms on tobacco manufacture, and information on revenue stamps, but also include correspondence with members of Virginia’s congressional delegation in 1941. There are letters from Harry Flood Byrd and David Edward Satterfield concerning Larus’ request for an extension of a three-year warehousing limit on imported tobacco. There is also correspondence with Satterfield and Absalom Willis Robertson requesting a revision of IRS revenue stamp laws.

In 1940, Larus was charged with patent infringement in the manufacture of its Edgeworth pipe tobacco pouch. This suit was eventually dismissed in 1953. The collection contains no suit papers or related correspondence, but does contain a report on the development of the suit and patent information relating to it. Miscellaneous tobacco patent information follows this material.

In October 1941, white employees of the Tobacco Workers International Union, affiliates of the American Federation of Labor, struck Larus for higher wages and a closed shop. The strike lasted three weeks and resulted in a five cents pay increase and improved benefits, yet the open shop was retained. Materials concerning the strike include reports on employee absences, newspaper clippings, affidavits on employ conduct and miscellany. Additional government materials follow, including information on Interstate Commerce Commission regulations, materials concerning a Department of Justice investigation of tobacco sales in chain grocery stores, and materials concerning Department of Agriculture burley tobacco allotments.

The United States government was a major purchaser of Larus tobacco during the Second World War and the years immediately after. As such, Larus had to keep a close accounting of tobacco, flavorings (including sugar), and other ingredients used to fill government orders, as these products were not only tax-exempt, but also contained rationed or scare raw materials. These Work War II records include correspondence, price quotes, estimates, and government regulations and standards of packaging, as well as quarterly reports to the War Production Board on the amounts of sugar and cellophane used to fill government orders. A folder of information from the Truman Commission concludes this section documenting Larus’ war-time activities.

More government materials follow. A folder of general IRS information titled “Improper Accumulation Surplus” documents that agency’s concern that some companies were not distributing a fair share of their profits to stockholders. There are two U. S. Department of Justice folders; the first contains general information on anti-trust activities in the cigarette field, the second includes reports to the Department of Alien Properties on patent licenses. Price cost estimates and information on the renegotiation of government contracts follow. Finally, federal income tax returns (some containing Mexican and Philippine tax information), Virginia capital returns, Richmond tangible property tax returns, and federal and state information returns complete this section. A folder of State Corporation Commission reports is found at the end of box 9.

Information concerning a 1960 Richmond tax study includes correspondence, clippings and copies of the consulting firm’s preliminary report. In 1960, Larus decided to sell its company-owned cars and lease its fleet from a Chicago company, Wheels, Inc. This materials includes correspondence with several leasing companies, report and pamphlets. Charts of account follow, and this material relates to information in the general ledgers from 1962 to 1966.

Following the 1936 flood, Larus moved its tobacco warehouses to Valley Road, off Fifth Street, in Richmond. By the early 1960's, it was apparent that these warehouses would be displaced by the juncture of interstate routes 95 and 64, so Larus began the search for a new location. A new site was chosen ten miles south of Richmond in Chesterfield County near Falling Creek. The six folders labeled “Tobacco Warehouses” document negotiations between Larus and the state highway department over the sale of the Valley Road property, the search for a new location, and the purchase and construction of facilities at Falling Creek. There are also three folders of warehouse inventories from 1965 to 1967.

Materials on employee benefits primarily include information on the company’s pension plan, as well as information on the pension status of individual employees. Pertinent information, such as dates of birth, employment, and pension eligibility are found on cards for each employee, arranged alphabetically by department. A box of materials concerning stock and debenture transfers follows the pension information. This material, including two stock certificate receipt books and stock ledgers (in journal and card form), documents individual stock and debenture transactions from 1900 to 1968. Correspondence concerning these transactions often includes information on shareholders, such as copies of wills. Canceled certificates and miscellaneous stock and debenture specimens are also found among this material.

A section of general information on the tobacco industry include trade journals, articles, clippings, and other companies’ annual reports and credit reports. In 1964, the cigarette industry came under heavy criticism due, in part, to the surgeon-general’s report linking smoking and lung cancer. One response to the report was the establishment of the Cigarette Advertising Code, a voluntary organization of cigarette manufacturers created to regulate and monitor cigarette advertising practices. The code’s administrator was former New Jersey governor, Robert B. Meynor. Larus joined the code, which proved ineffective as it lost the support of some of the major cigarette companies. Materials pertaining to the code include correspondence, by-laws, regulations, and reports. The 1965 folder contains correspondence with Congressman David Edward Satterfield, III, concerning cigarette labeling.

Correspondence with the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Deceptive Practices contains examples of tobacco packaging and advertising. Audio tapes and transcripts of radio advertisements are also found in this material, which includes correspondence with Washington Senator Warren G. Magnuson. Examples of cigarette packages and cartons, tobacco pouches and boxes, Larus stationary, original advertising and packaging artwork, and examples of magazine advertisements follow. Two scrapbooks containing copies of Edgeworth magazine and newspaper ads follow box 14. They precede a section of boxes oversize materials which consist primarily of examples of advertising and packaging mock-ups from 1959-1973. The first oversize box, box 15, also contains copies of magazine advertisements, examples of packaging, miscellaneous oversize materials, and found folders of advertising posters for Edgeworth and Hi-Plane tobacco, Domino cigarettes, and other Larus products. There are some other cardboard advertising materials in these folders as well. Other oversize advertising and packaging mock-ups are located with oversize manuscripts.

Materials pertaining to Larus Investing Company begin with information on the dissolution of Larus & Brother Company. This material includes correspondence and tax and dissolution papers. One folder contains correspondence with stockholders holding shares of non-voting “Common B” stock. These shareholders were dissatisfied with the dissolution because it meant they would receive par value ($100) for their stock instead of sharing the profits from the sale of Larus’ property assets. Stockholder mailings, audit reports, canceled checks, and materials pertaining to the sale of Larus & Brother Company to Rothman’s follow. A folder of materials concerning the dissolution of Larus Investing Company precedes monthly House of Edgeworth expense reports and miscellaneous Larus materials.

Larus’ international operation was an important facet in its success. The company had agreements with several Philippine firms allowing them to manufacture cigarettes using Larus brand names. Quarterly audits and reports from these Philippine companies document this relationship. In 1964, the Philippine firm, La Perla, canceled a contract with Larus after signing an exclusive contract with the Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company. Larus filed a multi-million dollar suit against Liggett and Myers for its role in forcing La Perla to break its original contract. Due to the general mood in the cigarette industry, Larus and L&M agreed to settle the dispute out of court. L&M paid Larus $10,000 as a gesture of good will, but without any admission of wrong doing. The collection contains suit papers, correspondence, and newspaper clippings on the case.

Records of Larus’ non-tobacco subsidiaries conclude this collection. In the early 1950's WRVA radio attempted to purchase WCAV radio in Norfolk, but decided otherwise when it was unable to obtain immediate FCC permission. Correspondence and reports document WRVA’s attempts. Other WRVA materials include FCC reports, applications for renewal, and materials pertaining to the sale of the station to the Southern Broadcasting Company. Records of the Richmond Television Corporation include by-laws, charters, amendments, annual reports, stockholder information, FCC applications, and materials concerning the sale of the station. Several folders on Larus’ charcoal operations are found at the end of box 23. These consist primarily of charcoal patent information and materials on the acquisition and eventual dissolution of Charcoal Industries, Inc., and the Terrace Products Company.


Series 1. Miscellaneous Bound Volumes

1. 1894-1900 (Cone-Reed Tobacco Company - general ledger)

2. 1896-1900 (A Maupin and Company - general ledger)

Series 2. Minute Books

1. 1900-1924

2. 1924-1935

3. 1935-1942

4. 1943-1947 (director minute book)

5. 1943-1959 (stockholder minute book)

6. 1943-1963 (executive committee minute book)

7. 1947-1953 (director minute book)

8. 1953-1958 (director minute book)

9. 1959-1964 (director minute book)

10. 1960-1964 (stockholder minute book)

11. 1963-1967 (executive committee minute book)

12. 1964-1969 (director minute book)

13. 1965-1968 (stockholder minute book)

14. 1967-1969 (executive committee minute book)

Series 3. Loose Minutes

Box 1. Loose materials, Cone-Reed ledger, 1892-1904; loose materials, A. Maupin ledger, 1898-1899; index to minute books, vols. 1 to 4; stockholder minutes, 1902-1969 (includes loose materials from first three minute books)

Box 2. Board of director minutes, 1943-1969; executive committee minutes, 1959-1969

Series 4. General Ledgers

1. 1899-1968 Larus & Brother, 38 volumes)

2. 1968-1969 (Larus Investing, 2 volumes)

3. 1968-1972 (House of Edgeworth, 4 volumes)

4. 1912-1938 (Reed Tobacco Company, 2 volumes)

5. 1932-1938 (Edgeworth Distributing Company, 1 volume)

6. 1939-1942 (Edgeworth Distributing Company, Boston, 4 volumes)

7. 1939-1942 Edgeworth Distributing Company, San Francisco, 4 volumes)

8. 1935-1938 (Sparrow and Graveley, 1 volume)

Series 5. Miscellaneous Bound Volumes (Larus)

1. Cash book, 1893-1894, 1913

2. Day book, 1921-1938

3. Journal, 1922-1938

4. Cash book, 1928-1936

5. Notes payable journal, 1937-1971

6. Scrapbook, ca. 1935-1946

7. Journal vouchers, 1939-1969 (3 volumes)

8. Sales ledger, 1968 (Larus Investing Company)

9. Cash book and journal, 1931-1938 (Edgeworth Distributing Company)

10. Price list books (8 volumes)

Series 6. Loose Records

Box 3. Loose materials from bound volumes; general historical information; charters, amendments, and certificates, 1877-1968; by-laws, 1943-1968; instructions on general policies; audit reports, 1919-1939

Box 4. Audit reports, 1940-1956

Box 5. Audit reports, 1957-1969; Edgeworth Distributing Company, Boston, minutes and corporate papers, 1932-1943

Box 6. Edgeworth Distributing Company, San Francisco, minutes and corporate papers, 1934-1943; liquidation of Edgeworth Distributing Company, 1938-1943; Sparrow and Graveley, 1935-1942; flood damage, 1936; Federal Power Commission, 1939-1962, 1968; Office of Price Administration, 1942-1946

Box 7. U. S. Department of Treasury, 1935-1952; patent information, 1940-1945; tobacco workers strike, 1941; Interstate Commerce Commission, 1941-1942; U. S. Department of Agriculture, 1942-1946; armed forces, 1940-1946; U. S. Department of Agriculture, 1938-1943

Box 8. War Production Board, 1942-1945; Truman Commission, 1943; Internal Revenue Service, 1946-1947; U. S. Department of Justice, 1947-1957, 1960; U. S. Quartermaster, 1947-1951; federal income taxes, 1953-1963

Box 9. Federal income taxes, 1964-1966; Virginia capital returns and Richmond machinery taxes, 1955-1972; information returns, 1959-1968; State Corporation Commission reports, 1957, 1968-1973

Box 10. Richmond tax study, 1960; leased automobiles, 1957-1962; charts of account, 1962-1966; tobacco warehouses, l963-1968

Box 11. Employee benefit and pension information, 1953-1973

Box 12. Stock receipt stub books, 1900-1953, 1953-1959; cancelled stock certificates, 1904-1968, miscellaneous certificate information; stock and debenture transfer sheets, 1954-1969; stockholder ballot forms; common stock ledger, 1900-1957; stockholder cards; examples of certificates

Box 13. Tobacco industry information, 1963-1967; cigarette advertising code, 1964-1968; Bureau of Deceptive Practices, 1963-1964; cigarette caution notices, 1965

Box 14. Cigarette and tobacco packaging; advertising material; advertising and packaging, examples of mock-ups, 1959-1973

NOTE: Two scrapbooks, 1912-1935 and 1937-1946, containing newspaper and magazine ads for Edgeworth and magazine ads for Edgeworth tobacco follow box 14

Series 7. Oversize Materials

Box 15. Copies of ads; advertising posters; miscellaneous oversize materials; cigarette and tobacco packaging

Boxes 16-20. Advertising and packaging mock-ups, 1962-1973

Series 8. Larus Investing Company

Box 21. Dissolution of Larus and Brother Company, 1968-1970; Ecuadorian American Leaf Tobacco Company, 1968-1969; audit reports, 1968-1969; cancelled checks, 1968-1969; paid bills, 1968-1969; Rothman’s of Canada, Limited, 1968; dissolution, 1969

Series 9. House of Edgeworth

Box 21. (Cont.). Monthly expenses, 1973-1974; miscellany

Series 10. International Operations

Boxes 21 (cont.)-22. Philippine reports, 1953-1959; Philippine audits, 1954-1960; Liggett and Myers lawsuit, 1965-1967

Series 11. WRVA

Box 22 (cont.). Purchase of WCAV radio, 1951-1954; FCC reports, applications and statements, 1960-1964; assignment of assets, 1968; sale of station, 1968-1971; miscellany

Series 12. Richmond Television Corporation

Box 23. Application for permit, 1954; stockholder information, 1954-1968; annual reports, 1956-1966, 1968; sale of station, 1968-1971; miscellany

Series 13. Charcoal Industries, Inc.

Box 23 (cont.). Acquisition, 1959-1960; patent information, 1959-1961; dissolution of company, 1964

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Last updated: January 13, 2004