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Article: Carreras wide-sized Fortune Telling Cards with figure-head inserts, 1926.

Carreras wide-sized Fortune Telling Cards with figure-head inserts, 1926.

The Carreras Fortune Telling Cards were published in 1926 for W.D. & H.O. Wills, Bristol, and issued by Carreras Ltd in various sizes (wide and narrow size) and formats (playing-card inserts or figures). The cards were printed by chromo-lithography by B. Dondorf in Germany, based on the “Dondorf Lenormand” fortune-telling cards made in the 1880s. A single card was enclosed inside every packet of “Black Cat” cigarettes. “Black Cat” was launched in 1904 and became the first cigarette in the United Kingdom to contain coupons which were redeemable for gifts. These coupons evolved into the collectible cards which became a huge marketing success.

The antecedents of the Carreras business stem back into the eighteenth century (their products and advertising materials consistently bore the legend 'Established 1788'), and forebears of the founder’s family were Spanish apothecaries. The founder of the business was a Spanish nobleman, Don José Carreras Ferrer, who fought in the Peninsular Warunder the Duke of Wellington (1808–1814). After serving with distinction and receiving the highest military honours, it is believed he was obliged to leave Spain on account of his political views.

During the early years of the 19th century Carreras began trading in London at a time when cigars were increasing in popularity and Don José became a pioneer in his field. However, although the business prospered it did not become a major concern until his son, Don José Joaquin, began to specialise in the blending of tobaccos and snuff. By 1852 Don José Joaquin Carreras had established himself near Leicester Square at 61 Prince's Street W1, and in 1853 was granted a warrant as the sole supplier of cigars and tobacco to the Spanish Legation in London. His fame as a tobacco blender soon spread, and he produced blends to suit the individual tastes of the highest members of society, with customers visiting his showrooms to select their own tobaccos. One of Don José's most famous customers was the third Earl of Craven. A special blend, to become known as Craven Mixture, was created specially for him and this blend has since spread in popularity throughout the world. Some of Don José's tobacco brands became world famous, including Guards' Mixture and Hankey's Mixture. Over one thousand brands of cigar could be bought from Carreras, together with snuffs, cigarettes, pipes and all the usual requisites of the trade.

In 1860 Carreras became the founder committee member of the Tobacco Trade Benevolent Association, and soon opened another shop, this time in the Arcade in London's newly developed and fashionable Regent Street W1.

The business remained in the hands of the Carreras family until 1894, when Mr W J Yapp, a well-known figure in the shoe leather industry, took control. Prince's Street became part of Wardour Street in 1878, and Number 61 became known as Prince's House, No 7 Wardour Street. The House of Carreras became a London landmark, and it was here that Prince Edward (later Edward VII) often came to select the finest cigars.
Early 20th century.

In 1881, the first cigarette making machine was patented in the United States by James Bonsack and by 1883 one of the British manufacturers, W. D. & H. O. Wills, had pioneered the use of the Bonsack in England. Wills joined with twelve other companies to form the Imperial Tobacco Group, from which both Rothmans and Carreras chose to remain independent, and by 1901 the Bonsack machine, making 200 cigarettes a minute, was exclusively available only to members of this Group. However, another of the cigarette machine makers, Bernhard Baron, had returned to London from the United States in 1896 with a patent for a new machine which could make 450 cigarettes a minute, and his progress was watched with interest by Mr Yapp who was by then running the Carreras business but who was keen to make cigarettes a paying venture.

Baron was determined to put his making machine into a small concern such as Carreras. Having been deprived of the opportunity to sell his machines to the newly formed Imperial Tobacco Company, which had a monopoly on the Bonsack machines, Yapp was able to negotiate a business arrangement with Baron in 1903. On 6 June 1903, Carreras became a public company with Yapp and Baron as directors and, under the leadership of Bernhard Baron, heralded the beginnings of defiant competition for the now powerful Imperial Tobacco Group and the new American invader, James Buchanan Duke, who was also capturing large slices of the British market with Ogden’s Guinea Gold, the firstVirginia cigarette made in this country. The original Carreras prospectus was heavily criticised in the City press, but within a short time the shares were fully subscribed, particularly by members of the tobacco trade who were quick to realise the potential of the new venture. The Baron family had a reputation as good employers who treated their staff well. Bernhard Baron would walk amongst his employees daily, enquiring after their families, and his son, Louis, and his grandson, Maurice, also made regular visits to the factory floor. A tradition developed that on Bernhard's birthday, each December, all employees were given two weeks' wages and a cake to take home.

In 1904, an allied company was established. Called Carreras and Marcianus Ltd and operating from St James's Place, Aldgate EC3, the former Baron Machine Company works, the company’s purpose was to commence production of machine made cigarettes. During the last six months of 1904 three brands made their debut, including Black Cat, the first cigarette in the United Kingdom to contain coupons which were redeemable for gifts.

In 1905 yet more brands were introduced such as Chick, Jetty and Sweet Kiss and Carreras began coupon trading in Black Cat. Business prospered and in 1906 additional premises were opened nearby, introducing new brands such as Carreras Ovals and Seven Up. Baron chose many novel schemes for the promotion of Carreras’ pipe tobacco and cigarette brands. In 1909, the company introduced the Baron automatic pipe filler in cartridges, which revolutionised pipe smoking and sold by the million.

In 1907 Carreras introduced an early version of the football pools. Coupons listing forthcoming matches were available from tobacconists and prizes were given for both the best forecast and to the owner of the shop from where the coupon had been purchased.

Expansion of the business continued and, in 1907, the first Arcadia Works was built on City Road EC1. More developments were made in the pipe field, including a cartridge case. Other brands were introduced before the First World War including Fireball, Golden Clipper, Red Route Mixture and Life Ray.

In 1913, Carreras acquired the prestige business of Alexander Bugoslavsky and opened a showroom at 55 Piccadilly W1 which still retained many of its grand, privately occupied houses and clubs. The medallion which is still reproduced on each packet of Piccadilly Filter was acquired with the purchase of Bugoslavsky's company.

The 1914-18 war caused a rapid acceleration in cigarette smoking and Carreras was to the fore in supplying cigarettes to the armed forces. Cigarettes were in short supply but Baron did not deviate from his object of better quality marketing of better quality products than his competitors. As an example, he enclosed French dictionaries in the containers of all cigarettes sent to the Front and supplied millions of copies of phrase and grammar books.

In 1921, immediately after the launch of Craven A, Carreras launched yet more brands such as Wall Arms, Piccadilly and Turf. By 1927 the business had outgrown the Arcadia premises in City Road, the war had increased demand for cigarettes and, despite taking on additional London premises at Aldgate, Carreras had to find a new factory. In 1928, the famous Arcadia Works was opened in Mornington Crescent NW1, formerly a favourite residence of artists and writers. This building, which has become a major London landmark, was as revolutionary in its concept as it was unusual in its design. It was the first factory in Britain to make use of pre-stressed concretetechnology, the first to contain air conditioning and a dust extraction plant and the company was the first to provide full welfare services for its employees. Such was the fame of the Arcadia Works that it was often visited by royalty, including the Duke of Windsor when he was the Prince of Wales, King George VI when he was the Duke of York, and the late Duke of Kent. Many other important visitors from every part of the globe were entertained at Mornington Crescent. Dominating the entrance to the building were two large bronze cats. Cast at the Haskins Foundry in London, these versions of the Egyptian god Bastet were each eight feet six inches tall and stood guard over Arcadia Works until 1959 when Carreras merged with Rothmans of Pall Mall and moved to a new factory in Basildon, Essex. The cats were separated, with one making the short journey to Essex, but one went to bask in the sun outside the Carreras factory at Spanishtown, Jamaica.

Between the two World Wars, Carreras' sales in the United Kingdom and overseas increased and more brands were launched. In 1929 valuable trade-marks were acquired with the purchase of John Sinclair Ltd of Newcastle upon Tyne (including Barneys Tobacco, Barneys Punchbowle and Parson's Pleasure). Soon after the purchase of Sinclairs the grandson of the founder of the firm, John Alexander Sinclair, was elected to the Board of Carreras and later became Joint Managing Director.

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