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British Industrial History

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Alfred Dunhill (1872-1959)

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Alfred Dunhill, Senior (1872-1959) of Alfred Dunhill

1872 September 30th. Born at 2 Church Path, Hornsey, Middlesex, the second son of five children of Henry Dunhill (1842–1901) and his wife and cousin, Jane, née Styles (1843–1922). According to one source[1] Henry Dunhill was a master blind-maker but the censuses show that he was a sacking dealer and later a dealer in pianos and music. Henry ran his business from the Euston Road, making among other things, accessories for horse-drawn vehicles. The family lived in Hampstead.

Formally educated at a private Hampstead school and by tutors.

1887 Apprenticed to his father's harness-making business.[2]

1893 He acquired the sacking business and quickly demonstrated his acumen by switching emphasis to the needs of the fledgling motor industry.

1895 By the time of his first marriage, to Alice Stapleton (1873/4–1945) on 15 June, he had established a separate line of business, Dunhill's Motorities. This sold everything (except the motor) for the motoring enthusiast.

Also tried making business in photography, in musical instruments and in science.[3]

1900 He established Discount Motor Car Co, selling his accessories through mail order.

1901 Alfred Dunhill 28, tarpaulin manufacturer, employer, lived in Hendon, with Alice Dunhill 27, Alfred H Dunhill 5, Vernon Dunhill 3, John Dunhill 1, Herbert E Dunhill 19, tarpaulin manufacturer, worked[4]

Dunhill was determined to capture the auto-goods market and decided to stop mail order and concentrate on retail sales.

1902 He opened his first shop in Conduit Street, Mayfair, selling clothing and accessories to both chauffeurs and their employers. Dunhill invented the "windshield pipe", which protected sportsmen from flying sparks - and so he entered the tobacco trade.

1904 He applied for a patent for his unique pipe.

1907 He opened his first tobacconist shop in Duke Street, St James's. From the choice of location it was obvious that Alfred Dunhill intended to offer the very best to an elite clientele. His classy shop offered everything for the discerning smoker - special blends of tobaccos and a whole array of smokers' requisites.

By 1910 Dunhill had taken additional premises in Duke Street to better accommodate the thirteen employees he had taken on in order to manufacture cigarettes.

1911 Alfred Dunhill 38, tobacconist shopkeeper, lived in Hendon with Alice Mary Dunhill 37, Alfred Henry Dunhill 15, Vernon Dunhill 13, John Dunhill 11, Mary Dunhill 4. By this time his brother, Herbert, was a tobacconist dealer [5]

1912 Expansion continued when Dunhill's eldest son, Alfred Henry Dunhill, joined him in business.

1913 His second son, Vernon Dunhill, joined them.

WWI. The war provided the company with its real opportunity to prosper — both in the mail-order business and by changing the smoker's image to one of the home-sick soldier alone with his match and cigarette - but it was the pipe that became more closely associated with the name Dunhill.

Post-WWI. After the war came both expansion and the commissioning of fresh products. The company always ensured its products were covered by patent and trade mark, a policy prosecuted with vigour from the outset.

The early 1920s saw the wholesale and export side of the business move to Notting Hill Gate, close to the pipe and cigarette division located at Campden Hill Road.

1929 Dunhill chaired his last company meeting on 5 February. The firm was stable and he felt that his son Alfred Henry Dunhill could take charge. He left his wife and moved to Worthing, in Sussex, to join his long-term mistress, Vera Mildred Wright (b. 1902/3). She changed her name to his by deed poll and they spent their days yachting, fishing, and motoring around the south coast.

1945 He married Vera on 28 March, shortly after the death of his wife.

1959 Died at Hopedene Nursing Home, Wordsworth Road, Worthing on 2 January, and was cremated at Golders Green crematorium. His wife survived him.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Obituary of Alfred Dunhill, ODNB
  2. The Times, Jan 05, 1959
  3. The Times, Jan 05, 1959
  4. 1901 census
  5. 1911 census