"Work hard, deal honestly, be
enterprising,exercise careful judgement,
advertise freely but judiciously."
— Sir Thomas Lipton
February is Come Home to Scotland month here at the Gathering of the Clans, and what better way to welcome visitors than with a nice hot cup of tea! So put the kettle on and cast your imagination back to Glasgow in the mid-nineteenth century, where a budding grocery mogul was born.
Little Thomas’ family owned a grocery store, and he had an interest in the business from an early age. Ambition must have nipped at the young boy’s heels, though, because at the age of fourteen, with eight dollars in his pocket, he became a stowaway on a ship to America. He earned a living as a farm laborer in Virginia and South Carolina, and later became a grocery clerk in New York.
In 1870, Thomas returned to Glasgow, and four years later opened his own grocery store. By the time he was thirty, Lipton ran a chain of stores, moved his headquarters to London, and was a millionaire. He demonstrated a keen sense of advertising and marketing that would help him live up to his ambition to put a Lipton shop in every Scottish city, and beyond.
Lipton became a household name through innovation in the tea business. At a time when tea was shipped and sold in bulk, Lipton developed tea bags, thus insuring consistency and freshness for tea consumers. He also sold different blends to different countries, to make up for variations in water from region to region, and managed to lower the cost of tea with greater efficiency of production.
Queen Victoria knighted Lipton for his commercial success as well as his philanthropy. During the Spanish-American war, and later during WWI, Lipton gave money and services to aid the wounded.
A keen yachtsman, Lipton first challenged for the America’s cup in 1899, with his yacht, Shamrock I. He made five attempts to win the cup, but never won. However, he earned a reputation as “the world’s best loser,” and was presented with a gold cup by the people of America for his good sportsmanship.
Lipton died in London in 1931. He had no heirs, and left much of his fortune to the city of Glasgow, to aid the poor, and to build hospitals. His tea companies in North America remained, and have since expanded into many areas of food production, to be leaders in the industry.
Thursday, December 26th, 2019
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