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Wills, W. H. and H. O

Wills, W. H. and H. O. A tobacco firm established in Bristol and by the end of the 19th cent. the largest in Britain. In contrast with many other tobacco importers, by the mid-19th cent. the directing members of the Wills family understood the nature of retailing and in particular the significance of brand names in selling to an increasingly literate mass market. Their successes with distinctive pipe tobaccos and a diverse array of cigarettes built a strong market (Passing Clouds 1871, Three Castles 1877, Woodbine 1888). In 1883 they bought the rights to the Bonsack cigarette-making machine enabling them to dominate cigarette-manufacturing in Britain until the 20th cent. In response to international competition, Wills led mergers to form British and American Tobacco in 1902. The family members were patrons of many charities, the most significant being the University College of Bristol, granted its charter in 1909.

Ian John Ernest Keil

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