Today I was on a merry chase, but I managed to track down one of Glasgow’s favorite sons. Thomas Lipton was on his way to the train station, but I managed to have a short conversation with him which I recorded. The University of Glasgow back in the 27th century will be pleased, I’m sure.
|Sir Thomas Lipton|
Sir Thomas Lipton is a true rags to riches story. He was born in Glasgow in 1848 to Ulster Scots who had immigrated back to the land of their ancestors. Poor but hard working, they struggled to keep open the small grocery shop they owned. Thomas quit school when he was thirteen to help in the store, then decided to make his own way in the world.
When he was fourteen he became a cabin boy on a line between Belfast and Glasgow. He took his money from this job to buy a ticket to America. Once there he took on several jobs and eventually ended up in A.T. Stewart's huge dry goods store in Manhattan. Stewart focused on presentation and variety and knew the importance of advertising. After five years, Thomas returned to Glasgow to show his parents everything he had learned in America.
In 1871 he opened his own store that offered good products at reasonable prices. The store was always clean, well stocked and well lit. He also wasn’t afraid to use any advertising scheme he could come up with. From his mother he learned to wisdom of buying eggs and milk directly from the farmers, rather than through a middleman. He worked hard, putting in 18 hour days, sleeping under the counter.
Soon Thomas had several stores in Glasgow. He branched out to the rest of Scotland and then the British Isles. I believe he currently has 300 stores! He is a very rich man. He will soon be even richer.
Thomas doesn’t just buy from local farmers. He bought a meat packing plant in Omaha, Nebraska in America, as well as several farms. This year he has decided to branch out into what he will be remembered for the most--tea.
Tea, once the luxury of the rich, is now drunk by the middle-class. But Thomas has not forgotten his working class roots and also sees an untapped market. By buying his own tea plantations in Ceylon, he can provide decent tea at ridiculously low prices. Thanks to him everyone will be able to afford to drink tea every day.
But he won’t stop there. He will also open a packaging plant in New Jersey to sell directly to the Americans, making tea popular again. (The barbarians had thrown the last batch in Boston Harbor back in 1773.) Lipton is will no longer just supply tea to his own stores; he will supply it to the world.
|Nurse on deck of Lipton's yacht|
(This is no pleasure cruise.)
Next year Thomas will move his office to London, after his parents pass away. But he will never forget Glasgow that gave him his start. He will leave much of his fortune to her. when he dies at the ripe old age of 83 in 1931. He will be buried in Glasgow per his request.
|Sir Thomas Lipton cheerfully losing yet |
another America's Cup race
Sir Thomas in a Lipton Tea commercial
(All right, Sir Thomas was never in a telly commercial, but he certainly would have if he could have.)