Stuart Carr, a Greenville, N.C., native, describes his experiences working at the Greenville Fertilizer Company at the beginning of the Depression; and then his years with the E. B. Ficklen Tobacco Company in Greenville (1938-1950) with responsibility for the Carolina Leaf Tobacco Company, which sold American tobacco to Chinese manufacturers. He describes the tobacco business in China, the Japanese presence before and during WWII in China, and the loss of his company's assets with the Communist takeover in China. He goes on to discuss the more contemporary involvement of Thailand in the tobacco market and China's contemporary relationship with American tobacco companies.
Carr was born in Greenville, N.C., in 1910 and raised in Norfolk, Va. He returned to Greenville at the beginning of the Depression and worked at the Greenville Fertilizer Company selling fertilizer at retail prices to farmers and loaning them cash. He then worked with the E. B. Ficklen Tobacco Company in Greenville (1938-1950) with responsibility for the Carolina Leaf Tobacco Company, a joint operation of Ficklen Tobacco Company and the G. R. Garrett Company of Rocky Mount, N.C. Carolina Leaf sold American tobacco to Chinese manufacturers. In 1950, Carr went to E. V. Webb and Co. in Kinston, N.C., staying with them until he left in 1956 to work for Universal Leaf Tobacco Co. in Richmond, VA. Carr remained with Universal until he retired in 1975. He died in Richmond, VA, on December 6, 1997.
Carr first discusses the effect of the Depression on tobacco farmers in Eastern North Carolina, who had experienced a pre-Depression era of high tobacco sale prices. He mentions the way in which farm families helped each other by sharing chores and talks about the Hoover cart, used by families to come into town in the early Depression years (pp. 1-4).
Right after joining Ficklen Tobacco Co., Carr spent six months in Shanghai, China, becoming familiar with Carolina Leaf Tobacco Co. He describes the competition between the companies selling to the Chinese manufacturing companies and the turmoil in China in 1938 with a strong Japanese presence. While all the manufacturing took place inside the International Settlement, the American companies had storage buildings outside the settlement which the Japanese did not interfere with (pp. 5-6). Carr notes that employees of the British-American Tobacco Company were sent to plants up country and describes some of their living conditions (pp. 7-8). For much of the remainder of the interview, Carr details life in China for company employees and their families (p. 9), and discusses at length the business of American companies selling tobacco in China. He talks about the difficulty of small companies entering the international market (p. 10); the use of filler tobacco and stems by the Chinese manufacturers (p. 11); the cigarette as a status symbol with the Chinese picking up butts from the street to use the remaining tobacco for "coolie" cigarettes (p. 12); the importance of "face" (pp. 22-23); and the difficulty of getting foreign exchange with companies in Japanese-held Manchuria (called Manchukuo by the Japanese) (pp. 13-14). Carr describes the Shanghai nightlife, the use of contaminated whiskey, gambling, the prices of clothes, and the exchange with the tael and the "mex" dollar (pp. 15-17, 23).
Carr notes the increasing presence of the Japanese in 1941 and that B.A.T. employees left in China after the attack on Pearl Harbor were detained in concentration camps before being exchanged for Japanese prisoners (pp. 18-19). He left China in 1941 shortly before Pearl Harbor was bombed. He also mentions how Universal lost all their assets with the takeover of the Communists after World War II. From a period of a high volume market, the war signaled a substantially reduced market with no foreign exchange for tobacco (pp. 19-20).
On a more contemporary note, Mr. Carr discusses the Thai people, their position in the tobacco market, and the switching of tobacco after it is sold (pp. 24-25). He also mentions an arrangement to have American cigarettes made in China for tourists by Reynolds and Phillip Morris (ca. 1980) and the monopoly these manufacturers will have. Carr notes that China grows so much tobacco that it is an exporter, a fact which helps them in their foreign exchange (pp. 26-27).
Two short papers by Carr are included. The "Thailand Travel Account" (1964) concerns the Chiengmai section of Thailand where Virginia flue-cured tobacco is grown. The curing, sorting, and grading of tobacco are discussed.
A similar paper on "Tobacco Activities in China" fills in some of the descriptions of Shanghai in the 1930s especially of the International Settlement, notes the rampant inflation of the 1940s, and describes how the American tobacco companies in China were administered. It alsomentions the use of the chop, a stamp used for official transactions (p. 3), and goes into more detail about "coolie" cigarettes and the prestige cigarettes that gave people "face" (pp. 4-5).
In addition there are two papers consisting of 9 pages. The titles of these two papers are: "Account of Tobacco Activities in China" and "Thailand Travel Account."
Gift of C. Stuart Carr, Jr.
Processed by L. Harris; M. Boccaccio, October 1991
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