By Bruce Richardson • Images Courtesy of the Benjamin Press Archives
Scottish entrepreneur Thomas Lipton changed the way Britons drank their tea.
The name Lipton has been synonymous with tea for nearly 150 years. Thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of the company’s founder and namesake, Thomas Lipton, the internationally known brand accounts for 14 percent of today’s global tea market.
Lipton was born May 10, 1850, to Northern Ireland immigrants living in a four-room
tenement on the outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland. He attended St. Andrew’s Parish School where primary education cost 3 pence a week, but he was never happier than when in the atmosphere of ships, sailors, boats, and the waterside. By age 14, the precocious teenager had booked passage to America—just as the Civil War was coming to a close.
Lipton was among the thousands of Irish and Scottish immigrants who arrived every day at New York’s Ellis Island. Finding no work in the city, he accepted a job in the tobacco fields of a Virginia plantation. Lipton next worked on a rice plantation on Coosaw Island in South Carolina, where responsibilities in finances and bookkeeping gave him a good grounding in running an enterprise. (Less than a century later, Lipton Tea Company would establish a tea research farm on Wadmalaw Island, only 20 miles north of that rice plantation.)