Sunday, 1 May 2011

Smoke a Black Cat!
Something over 45 years ago I had a spell in Moorfields Eye Hospital in High Holborn (long since redeveloped).  I was in Bernhard Baron ward which, I was informed, had been endowed by a cigarette magnate. It meant nothing to me at the time - there were certainly other things on my mind. My surgeon - J.R.Hudson - was a pioneer in the use of lasers in eye surgery and performed the same operation on the Duke of Windsor at the London Clinic within days of my op. He used to visit me after calling on the Duke which he did in  full morning attire. It was a shame that I was not really in a position to appreciate it. 
Bernhard Baron was of Jewish descent, born in France and moved to USA as a teenager where he worked in a cigarette factory.  He developed a cigarette-making machine which he eventually brought to UK and sold to Carreras who were based in London at that time. Around this time, the late 19th century, most of the tobacco trade in UK had merged into the Imperial Tobacco Co. with notable exceptions of Carreras and Rothmans. Imperial had secured sole rights to an American cigarette making machine capable of producing 200 cigarettes per minute.  So when Bernhard Baron arrived with a machine capable of twice that production rate a new factory in City Road was set up in 1907 to produce such brands at Black Cat, launched in 1904, the first UK brand to include coupons which could be collected for gifts. Another notable achievement in 1921 was the first machine made cork-tipped cigarette - Craven A.  Collecting coupons caught on but go so our of hand the cigarette companies all withdrew by agreement this kind of promotion on 1st January 1934. With the launch of Craven A Carreras outgrew the Arcadia Works in City Road and built a new factory in Mornington Crescent which opened in 1928. Also named Arcadia, the building is a beautiful example of Art Deco style. It still exists and is in fine condition as these pictures illustrate.

Arcadia Works in Mornington Crescent
The first factory in Britain to use pre-stressed concrete

Also the first to incorportate air-conditioning
Black Cat was Carrera's first strong brand
The two bronze cats which stand either side of the front steps may be replicas as I believe that the originals were moved in 1959- one to the new factory in Basildon and one to somewhere in the Caribean.

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