A NAME AND BRAND WE NEVER KNEW or HAVE WE JUST FORGOTTEN IT?

We all know a great deal about WW1, over much so in some areas, and undoubtedly the years 1914-1918 trail-blazed a set of historical data few other periods in all of history can match. However,  there was so much missed, unknown, ignored as trivia which together formed an integral part of that historical data, which had it not been so, would have swelled that databank exponentially.  True, some of it is as uninteresting  as is knowing the amount of shells fired on a given day of the war without knowing whether they hit their intended target or whether it delayed or stopped the Hun in his tracks, but some of it which had its roots/source in those far off years, became a way of life for the British and indeed for countless millions of others world wide.

Omissions of facts and figures are not unique to WW1, and were ‘mistreated’ by historians  who became popular with the masses, and slipped into accounts by journalists with a more pragmatic understanding of men at war.  I cite as one example the years  1853-1856 namely the years of the Crimean War. Few I would wager, would not know about the charge of the light brigade, the origins of the cardigan, the bronze Russian cannons from which the Victoria Cross was made, and of course that dear lady Florence Nightingale. On the other hand, how many people would know that a habit practiced by the enemy [the Russians]  would be  appropriated by our soldiers and brought back to our shores, though not without a little diffidence. The habit of smoking a cigarette effected a transformation in the smoking habits of our nation.  Yes, the Russians had become used to cigarettes many years before Western Europeans, who were accustomed to smoking pipes and cigars, ladies as well, or to chewing tobacco, even though cigarettes had been made in Britain since around the 1820 mark, and by Players themselves since 1870.

For the next two wars, Boer War 1 and Boer War 2, et seq, soldiers were comforted by a cigarette and kit-items would be discarded from a rucksack to make room for the luxury items like cigarettes, chocolate, foot-cream, toilet paper and others.  There were times when a cigarette could be as important as a bullet!

Well before WW1, one of those Russians, sensing the fervour which the British people had for the cigarette now fully socially accepted, came to London and created one of the principal cigarette manufacturing business in the country offering up-market brands of quality . His name and his brand was known by every British serviceman of WW1, and yet today, we know of neither, whether expressed in the written word or tangibly as artefact.

His name was Mr J Millhoff and his world famous product was the De Reszke cigarette.  Reszke is pronounced as REE-S-KA

The De Reszke cigarette was used in every country in the world the Company  claiming “In peace and war, De Reszke has proved a real solace, a cigarette that is pleasantly prophetic of the coming Trade Entente between great nations”.

Then came adverts, and advertising in and just before WW1 wasn’t sophisticated. This comes from a British paper published in 1916 before the Battle of Jutland stared       The_Times_1916-06-20 cigarette advert.jpg  

There are many adverts like this one [specifically mentioning the navy and the King] suggesting that Reszke cigarettes were smoked in the White House, in Buckingham Palace, in the Kremlin and in the Weimar Reichstag.        The_Times_1911-12-19 RESZKE Cigarettes.jpg  

By design, in 1927 the J Millhoff Co of London sold out lock stock and barrel to a massively rich and international company which was a fellow competitor. I have copied just the first few lines of Godrey Phillips share holders meeting  which met in the City of London. Note the last few lines which mentions that they had bought every ordinary share of J Millhoff and Co., so are the new owners, though the Brand name of Reszke would remain.  1927-04-14godfrey phillips.jpg