February 7, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
Richard Reynolds

Richard Reynolds began working for his uncle RJ Reynolds as a law student in the summer of 1902. His uncle told him flat out he was too good a businessman to stay in law. "We can hire all the lawyers we want," he said. Now it had been ten years, he was in his mid-thirties and it was time to RJ Reynolds Tobacco and do something on his own. RJ offered him $100,000 to stay but Richard had made up his mind.

Reynolds went out to Bristol, Tennessee and bought himself a mountain of pure silica crystal. He was going to grind it up into soap powder. Reynolds put his "Spotless Cleanser" in a can with a sifter top and his cleaning products quickly became popular around the mid-south. As Reynolds prepared to expand to national production his plant burned down.

Just as he got going again World War I broke out and when the government declared "Spotless Cleanser" a non-essential product Reynolds was out of business with no money. He reasoned that there must be products deemed "essential" by the War Department that nobody was producing. He went to Washington but the only product no one seemed to be making was waterproof barrels constructed of paper and not crucial steel.

Reynolds had no idea what this business was about but while walking around Washington by chance he saw some workmen applying paper material to a roof. If that paper kept roofs from leaking it must, he reasoned, be waterproof . He bought a roll of the asphalt felt and fashioned a barrel with steel on the top and bottom. Reynolds quickly entered into frenzied production of waterproof barrels for the war effort.

After the excitement of wartime production Reynolds had no desire to make cleanser again. He had a natural interest in metal foil for cigarette packaging and with financial assistance from RJ Reynolds he formed the US Foil Company. He changed the way a factory produced tin foil and saved 6 1/2¢ a pound that enabled him to survive a price war by more established firms. Soon the Reynolds Metal Company was the country's biggest producer of tin foil.

From the time Richard Reynolds saw his first piece of aluminum foil he knew the tinfoil business was doomed. He found himself the creator of a business that would soon be obsolete. He would not wait around. Reynolds immediately set up an aluminum fabricating plant in Louisville, Kentucky.

In 1937 while in Europe seeking sources of aluminum Reynolds discovered Hitler producing 800 million pounds of aluminum a year - twice the combined production of the United States, England and France. Clearly he was planning to fight with light metal in the air. Reynolds appealed to the United States government to expand their production of aluminum but he was ignored.

Reynolds expanded on his own without orders. His producing capacity expanded seven times and he was buying bauxite everywhere. As a result of expansion Reynolds had to make Americans aluminum-conscious and he did this by heavily promoting Reynolds Wrap. Soon aluminum was used everywhere - including the United States government, for its strength, lightness and corrosion resistance.

Consumption exploded, growing 1500% in the last 15 years of Reynolds' life. Time and again before his death in 1955 he had turned crisis into opportunity since leaving the safe harbor of RJ Reynolds Tobacco.

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