|Louis K. Liggett at 42.|
Cigar stands traditionally had been small, independently owned corner and sidewalk shops that as a group were poorly managed, poorly arranged, and produced marginal profits. In 1901, New York tobacco merchant George J. Whelan organized the first chain of cigar stands, known as United Cigar Stores Company. His standardized shops provided good pay and working conditions for employees, effective window displays and advertising, and an overriding work ethic that focused on selling cigars and related tobacco products. Although he didn't advertise the fact, Whelan had combined United Cigar Stores Co. with the “tobacco trust,” a sprawling conglomerate of some 80 manufacturing and distribution companies in the U.S., Porto Rico and Cuba. The trust was formally styled Consolidated Tobacco Co. from 1901 to 1904, then as American Tobacco Company.
|J.A. Skinner's Drug Store in Cedar Springs, Michigan circa 1910. National Cigar Stores signage is visible on windows and below the display of cigars at left.|
The 300 Rexall druggists at the meeting were enthusiastic about what they heard, and when stock was offered it was quickly over-subscribed. As president of the new firm, Liggett traveled to Cuba and arranged to take the entire output of several cigar manufacturers in Havana, then repeated the arrangement with a number of leading producers in the United States. Because American Tobacco Co. controlled most of these firms, Liggett was undoubtedly making supply (and credit) arrangements with full knowledge of tobacco trust officials.
|Showcase pictured in 1905 promotional book.|
|Keystone Pharmacy, The Rexall Store, Windber, Pennsylvania, circa 1915. A National Cigar Stands showcase has been positioned next to the soda fountain.|
|Patented paper sack for cigars.|
Tobacco jobbers and the United Cigar Stores Co. didn’t react to the new competition quietly. Information was leaked to the media charging that National Cigar Stands was controlled by the “Tobacco Combination.” To their chagrin, it was soon made apparent that United Cigar Stores Co. itself was the major retail distribution arm of American Tobacco Company and the charge was a blatant distortion of fact. Liggett and other NCSCo representatives countered that their cooperative firm was formed to fight business methods of the trust rather than be part of it. What must have been confusing to observers, however, was the September 1905 migration of George M. Gales from American Tobacco to National Cigar Stands as vice president. Gales had been connected with the tobacco giant in New York City for eight years, most recently as secretary to John Blackwell Cobb, long time American Tobacco Company officer.
|Blair & Brennan, The Rexall Store, Creston, Iowa, 1910. Martin J. Brennan is standing at upper left, cigar in mouth.|
|Denver, Colorado agents, Feb 1907.|
|Tip tray displaying medallions for National Cigar Stands exclusive brands.|
|Black and White cigar cutter and box for 5¢ Invincibles, circa 1926.|
|Company letterhead, 1912. By this time George M. Gales was president and National Cigar Stands Company had expanded to Boston and Chicago.|
National Cigar Stands Company, initially financed by individual directors and Rexall agency stockholders, was acquired by United Drug Co. in 1913 in the wake of the American Tobacco Company dissolution. Loan obligations held by the tobacco trust were likely discharged by United Drug, and NCSCo stockholders promptly exchanged their shares for UDCo stock. The merger was finalized in March 1914.