Richard Joshua “R.J.” Reynolds (1850-1918)

Written By North Carolina History Project

As the sixth of 16 children, Richard Joshua Reynolds left his small Virginia town at an early age to establish his own company.  At the age of 25, Reynolds opened a chewing tobacco manufacturing company in Winston, North Carolina and quickly became a pioneer in the industry.  He anticipated the growth in the smoking tobacco market and developed a line of pipe tobaccos.  In 1913, he introduced Camel, the first American blend cigarette.  His innovative branding and marketing strategy set the industry standard.

Reynolds was well known for his personal relationship with his employees, most of whom he knew by name.  In 1912, he devised an employee stock option and profit-sharing plan that enabled many employees to gain financial security.

Reynolds supported various educational and community service projects including hospitals, churches, higher education and agriculture.  By the time of his death in 1918, Reynolds had revolutionized the tobacco industry and brought economic development to a large area of North Carolina through his business and philanthropic endeavors.


(Used with permission. Originally published at Free Enterprise Heroes by The Jesse Helms Center)