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Sorg Tobacco Co

Sorg Tobacco Co. -- also known as the Paul J. Sorg Tobacco Co. and the P. J. Sorg Tobacco Co. The most comprehensive work on the Sorg company, the production of tobacco in the Miami Valley and the tobacco processing industry in Middletown is by George Crout, a Middletown historian. Crout's history. written in 1948, is available on the Internet, thanks to the Middletown Historical Society. Bracketed [ ] material has been added for clarity, or to denote information from other sources. "In the Miami Valley the tobacco industry is localized at Dayton and Middletown," Crout wrote in 1948. "The, industry got its start in the last century [1800s], when this valley was an important leaf production center, specializing in the production of cigar-filler tobacco. "The growing of tobacco gradually spread westward from Virginia, and as early as 1839 Ohio ranked seventh in the production of this crop, by 1889 it had jumped to third place," Crout said. "While from 1889 to 1919 the state fell from thirdSouth Hamilton was a proposed residential area once outside Hamilton. Its boundaries were south from South Avenue (now Knightsbridge Drive) to Woodlawn Avenue, and east from the Great Miami River to the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad. The area -- which was annexed to Hamilton in 1908 -- also was known as Sloptown because of slop from a distillery in the area. It also included the areas known as Peck's Addition and South Hamilton Crossing.
 to sixth place in production, the number of pounds produced jumped from 38 million to 64 million pounds. In 1932 there were 30,000 acres in South Hamiltontobacco in the Miami Valley. The cigar-filler producing area centers are in Darke, Montgomery, Preble and Miami counties, with outliers in Warren, Butler, Shelby and Greene." Crout continued: "In 1838 seedleaf tobacco was introduced into this region , and in 1851 its production was begun in the Dick's Creek valley, four miles south of Middletown. Since this Miami Valley region had heavy clay soils in some parts, this particular variety of tobacco did very well, particularly in the lowlands. The Spanish Simmer variety was introduced in 1869 and became a popular variety for growth on the uplands. This region gradually increased its annual yield of tobacco until 1909. "When men turned to smoking cigarettes during the first World War," Crout explained, "the demand for cigars slowly declined. and with it the market for cigar-filler tobaccos. This meant the decline in tobacco production and in manufacturing. Since this valley was not suited to the growth of other varieties, as used in cigarettes, the importance of the tobacco industry declined."

Crout said "when the Miami Valley became the center of the tobacco industry in the last century, Middletown became the center of important processing plants. John G. Clark and J. B. Cecil entered in to the manufacture of tobacco in 1859, but due to the Civil War, which caused a depression in the tobacco industry, this first business failed. "In 1864 John Auer, a tobacco roller in Cincinnati, met Paul J. Sorg, a foreman in a foundry. Mr. Auer could make tobacco, but he couldn't keep books, and while Sorg knew nothing about tobacco, he was a good bookkeeper," Crout wrote. "These two men organized a firm for the manufacture of tobaccos, starting a plant in Cincinnati with $6,000 and 28 workers." [Elsewhere, Crout wrote "the business was begun in an attic on Pearl Street in Cincinnati" with "two or three second-hand tobacco machines."]

"In 1869 this firm was consolidated with that of Wilson & Jacoby [Robert Wilson and George Jacoby], who also had a plant at Cincinnati. Jacoby lived in Middletown, and induced the newly formed company to move to Middletown. So Wilson, Sorg & Co. began construction of a tobacco plant here [in 1869]. This company soon sold out, and Sorg and Auer again began their own business. "The new Sorg & Auer plant was built on East Central Avenue across from the Big Four railroad line. The first building was built in 1879 and was 140 by 100 feet. The business grew so rapidly that additions were soon added. In 1881 the company manufactured 1.6 million pounds of tobacco and employed 300 men. The output of this factory increased so rapidly that by the 1890s," Crout said, "Middletown was the third city in the United States in the output of plug tobacco." [Auer is reported to have retired from the business in 1884.] "During, this same period the Wilson & McCallay plant, the company which had been brought from Cincinnati, was also doing a good business. In the '90s this company was manufacturing 8 million pounds of tobacco a year and employing 500 men." Crout said "in 1898 the Continental Tobacco Co. was looking forward to expansion and entered into negotiations with P. J. Sorg, who sold.

[A report Dec. 14, 1898, in the Hamilton Republican-News said Sorg received $4.5 million in cash in the sale to the American Tobacco Co. The same article said "the employees are regretful that as many years' relation is to be severed, because in the history of the company there has not been a strike or the presentation of a grievance." Other reports said it operated as the P. J. Sorg & Co., a branch of the American Tobacco Co.]

[Other sources identify the Continental Tobacco Co., organized in 1886 by James B. Duke, as a trust to control the plug tobacco industry in the U. S.

Duke and Continental won the "Great Plug War, acquiring the biggest plug producers, Liggett & Myers, St. Louis; Drummond, St. Louis; P. J. Sorg, Middletown; and P. Lorillard & Co., New York.] [In 1890 the American Tobacco Co. was formed to acquire and control the smoking tobacco business. The American Snuff Co. and the American Cigar Co. were formed to gain control of the trade in other tobacco sectors.] [In 1901 Duke combined his Continental Tobacco Co. and his American Tobacco Co. into the Consolidated Tobacco. Co. In 1904, Duke's combine became known as the American Tobacco Co. By 1911, Duke's American Tobacco Co. controlled 92 percent of the world's tobacco business.] [May 29, 1911, federal trustbusters, in a decision by the U. S. Supreme Court, succeeded in dissolving Duke tobacco monopoly. The court ruled the American Tobacco Co. had violated the 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act. P. Lorillard was one of the new companies formed by the federal action.] Crout said "in 1901 the same company obtained control of the Wilson & McCallay factory, which they moved and consolidated with the Sorg plant on Central Avenue. The whole tobacco business of Middletown was now under one roof. In 1903 the tobacco business in Middletown employed 1,000 men, paid $9,000 in wages each week and shipped 17 million pounds of tobacco that year. The Cullum Brothers and American Cigar Co. maintained warehouses in Middletown, buying 14.5 million pounds of cigar leaf in 1903." "At Middletown [in 1948] is located a branch of the P. Lorillard Tobacco Co., which has several plants scattered throughout the United States. The P. Lorillard Co. is a national concern with the main office in New York City," Crout said. "This company manufactures all types of tobacco products -- cigarettes, cigars, pipe, and chewing tobaccos. The Middletown branch specializes in the production of chewing and pipe tobaccos. 'Union Leader,' 'Friends,' and 'Briggs' are the well known pipe tobaccos, while 'Bag Pipe' and 'Havana Blossom' are the chewing brands which are best known. Several other brands are produced along with the old-fashioned plugs which are slowly leaving the market. "At Middletown today [1948] Lorillard is the only tobacco company," Crout said. "But there are still the two phases of the tobacco industry carried on here under this one firm. One phase is the storing and curing, and the other is the manufacturing which consists of blending, cutting and packing. Curing tobacco requires much space for it is often in storage for two or three years. The Lorillard Co. has warehouses in the southern and northern end of the town," Crout wrote in 1948, three years before Middletown's tobacco era ended. [Lorilland officially closed its Middletown plant Oct. 12, 1951. About six months earlier, when the closing was announced, 600 people were employed at the 350,00 square foot plant bounded by Grimes and Charles streets and Central and Manchester avenues.] [Sunday afternoon, Feb. 22, 2004, fire destroyed Recker Custom Woodworking at 1210 Girard Avenue, described as 40,000 square feet over four stories. The Middletown Journal reported Feb. 24, 2004 that "the building's roots go back to Paul Sorg's American Tobacco Co." (Also see Polar Bear.)

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