The Rise and Fall of American Tobacco Company

In this section, you will learn:
About the structure of tobacco giant American Tobacco Co., before and after its breakup in 1911
How we can still see the effects of American Tobacco Co.'s breakup today


James B. Duke's American Tobacco Company ruled the tobacco scene from 1890-1911.

The consolidation of American Tobacco Company in 1890 made it the largest tobacco company in the world.  However, the spread of anti-trust sentiment led eventually to a Supreme Court ruling in 1911 that broke up American Tobacco Co. into fourteen separate companies.  Below are graphic representations of American Tobacco Co., pre and post-dissolution:

American Tobacco Company: Before the Breakup...

(Source: Duke Homestead and Tobacco Museum)

...And After

(Source: Duke Homestead and Tobacco Museum)

The rise and fall of American Tobacco Company was a pivotal event in the formation of today's tobacco industry structure.  Of the separate companies that emerged from the breakup, four were standouts: Liggest & Myers Tobacco Co., P. Lorillard Co., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., and a new, slimmed-down American Tobacco Co.  Of these, R.J. Reynolds and P. Lorillard Co. remain among the top four tobacco firms in the nation (see Industry Leaders, Domestic), and Ligget is still a major tobacco power.  The dissolution of American Tobacco Company was an event that changed the course of U.S. tobacco history, and we can still witness the effects of the breakup to the present day.

Source: Duke Homestead and Tobacco Museum Homepage.