Philip Morris USA
The company's namesake Philip Morris was born in Whitechapel, United Kingdom in 1835, the son of a recent immigrant from Germany who had taken the name Bernard Morris. In 1847, the family opened a shop in London. The first cigarettes that Philip Morris made were in 1854 and were known as "Philip Morris English Ovals," a non-filter brand of oval-shaped cigarettes that were manufactured in very limited quantities until discontinuation in 2017.
In 1902, Philip Morris & Co., Ltd. was incorporated in New York City. George J. Whelan bought the American division of the company in 1919 and created Philip Morris & Company Ltd., along with fellow shareholders Reuben M. Ellis and Leonard B. McKitterick.
In 1929, the company made its first cigarettes in Richmond, using an existing factory the company purchased. In 1933, this factory was racially integrated more than 30 years before the law required it. In 1938, the company offered preferred stock to ordinary buyers.
In 1924, Philip Morris began advertising Marlboros specifically to women. The cigarettes had "new cork-tip filters housed in a flip-top box with a red roof design."
From 1951 to 1955, Philip Morris sponsored the CBS sitcom "I Love Lucy", with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz pitching the product often, and Philip Morris controlling the content of the program. In 1955, Philip Morris became an alternate sponsor with Procter and Gamble, eventually bowing out altogether by the end of that year.
In 1970, Philip Morris made the first of several acquisitions with the purchase of Miller Brewing Company. In 1985, Philip Morris Cos. became a holding company and the parent of Philip Morris Inc. and bought General Foods. The acquisition of Kraft Foods came in 1988, after which Kraft and General Foods became Kraft General Foods.
In the 1970s, in response to smokers’ health concerns, Philip Morris introduced the “Light” cigarette - which was later found to be no safer than any others.
In 1976, Marlboro became the leading brand in the U.S.; Morris operated as the largest seller of tobacco in the U.S. and the second-largest in the world.
In 2001, Kraft Foods launched an initial public offering (IPO) for 11.1% of the company that took in $8.7 billion, making it the second-largest IPO in American history at the time.
On January 27, 2003, Philip Morris Companies Inc. changed its name to Altria Group, Inc. Even under this new name, Altria continues to own 100% of Philip Morris USA (abbreviated PM USA). Some view this name change as an effort by Altria to de-emphasize its historical association with tobacco products.
In the fall of 2003, Philip Morris USA moved its headquarters from New York City to Richmond, Virginia. On March 30, 2007, the remaining 88.9% stake in Kraft Foods was spun off to shareholders. Philip Morris International was split from Philip Morris USA in March 2008. This has caused a drop in the needed cigarette production due to no need for export product. Philip Morris shut down its Concord, North Carolina, manufacturing facility in 2010 and moved all domestic production to Richmond, which now contains the largest Philip Morris plant in the world, producing 146 billion cigarettes in 2010.
In 2009, Philip Morris dropped the use of “Light” after many felt the word misrepresented the products as a healthier cigarette.
Philip Morris USA brands include Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Benson & Hedges, Merit, Parliament, Alpine, Basic, Cambridge, Bucks, Dave's, Chesterfield (U.S. sale and production discontinued in late 2017), Collector's Choice, Commander, Lark, L&M, Players, Greensmoke, and MarkTen.
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