10th May 1848

Tea magnate Thomas Lipton is born

Lipton’s tea is famous the world over. It takes its name from Thomas Lipton, who was born in Glasgow in 1848 (some sources say 1850) and went on to found Lipton tea.

As a young man, he spent time working on ships, then lived in America for a couple of years. When he returned to his hometown, he brought £100 with him and used it to open a provisions store, which he built up into a national chain of several hundred outlets.

Respected businessman

“He was always a good buyer, and in time proved himself to be one of the most extraordinary sellers the world has seen,” wrote the Northern Whig on 3 October 1931. “Always daring and always with large ideas, he was not content to confine his operations to Glasgow. He became one of the pioneers of a form of business now very much developed, that of the multiple shop, and in time there came to be scarcely a town in the United Kingdom in which you could not find one of Lipton’s shops.”

In the late 1800s he started to trade in tea, buying direct from the producers so he could undercut rivals in his grocery stores. This established the brand that carries his name to this day.

Lipton’s death

Lipton never married, and died in London in 1931, but left most of his estate to the city of Glasgow. He was 81 at the time of his death and had been ill for a week.

The Yorkshire Post announced his death on 3 October, the day after he took his last breath, and described him as an ingenious and diverting advertiser. “In 1889 when he realised that there were large profits to be made in tea, he purchased 20,000 chests, and to advertise the fact sent through the streets of Glasgow a procession of fifty drays accompanied by a brass band and a squad of pipers.” By the 1890s, said the same piece in the Yorkshire Post, he held more tea in bond than any other man in the world.

Lipton is buried in a family grave in Glasgow’s Southern Necropolis.



Other events that occured in May

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