The Tobacco Business


John worked for his father for 6 or 7 years. When John was 21 years old (in 1858) he started a cigar factory in the basement of the old Mechanics Institute then on Vine Street between 5th & 6th Sts. John continued there for 13 years (till 1871) when he entered the leaf tobacco business at 129 Front Street.

John died rather suddenly in 1894. Of John and Mary's six living children George was the only one prepared to take on the leaf tobacco business. (George's older brother Leander had died 13 years before.) George had to buy the business to provide the family income. The amount was $40,000 paid over time to Mary.

George with John Eckerle took that business and ran with it. They were a good team. They were really producing. By the first world war the partners had sold thousands of cases of tobacco.

About 1910 John took a contingent of Dycels and Wemmers from DWG Cigar Co. on a grand tour of Europe. He told George that he was going to take $10,000 out of the company to go to Europe. George said "I am not going to Europe but I am going to take $10,000 also out of the company.

John was a great salesman. George was a great buyer. Together they made a great partnership. But the seeds of the dissolution were in this combination. In time the money that George made was used to buy John out. John went on to do other things and George bought his family's respect and peace of mind.

"Dad, with two of his brothers, Carl and Richard, followed their father in the cigar leaf tobacco business. The brothers expanded the business to include the buying and warehousing of Pennsylvania cigar tobacco near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Ohio cigar tobacco near Germantown, Ohio; growing and warehousing of Connecticut broadleaf cigar tobacco (a thimble full of tobacco seed would plant one acre) at a three hundred acre plantation near South Windsor, Connecticut (replete with housing for the Jamaican seasonal workers); and two cigar factories, one in Frankfort, Indiana, and the other in Wheeling, West Virginia. The original John Berger & Son Company is now The National Cigar Company. The cigar factory in Frankfort, Indiana, was and is the home of such memorable cigar brands as Lincoln Highway (From Coast to Coast), The Hoosier Poet (with picture of James Whitcomb Riley on the box lid), The Bankable (You can Bank on Bankable), El Verso, and R.G. Dunn. Also made at the Frankfort factory is the La Fendrich cigar. This brand, now owned by National, was originally owned by John H. Fendrich who had a large cigar factory in Evansville, Indiana, in the early 1900ís. The factory was the largest cigar factory in the world and the largest employer of women. The cigars were all hand rolled and produced at the rate of 350,000 a day." by Jack Berger


For the real story of the tobacco business see the links to Fred's book.

Fred's 'Stories'
Fred Berger has written an excellent book 'Stories from The Berger History'.

For information about 'Cincinnati in the 1850s and a job for John' see the link to "Fred's 'Stories'p.34".

For information about 'John, his sons and the tobacco business' see the link to "Fred's 'Stories'p.52".

For information about 'John and George's partnership' see the link to "Fred's 'Stories'p.57".

For information about 'the partnership break up' see the link to "Fred's 'Stories'p.61".

For information about some of Carl's work see the link to "Fred's 'Stories'p.62".



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