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WD & HO Wills

British, founded 1830

Institution: WD & HO Wills
WD & HO Wills was founded by Henry Overton Wills (1761-1826) in 1786 when he opened a shop in Castle Street, Bristol. He traded as Wills, Watkins & Co until the retirement of his partner in 1789, and the company became Wills & Co. His sons, William Day Wills and Henry Overton Wills II, took over the business in 1826 and adopted the title WD & HO Wills in 1830.

At the start of the 20th century The American Tobacco Company, which had virtually monopolised the American tobacco market, began aggressively buying smaller British companies. In response, Wills and 12 other family run tobacco companies joined in 1901 to form The Imperial Tobacco Company, and continued to trade under their own names and manage their own manufacturing and sales.

Nearly 30 members of the Wills family served the company. The last, Christopher, the great-great grandson of H O Wills, retired as sales research manager in 1969.