A portrait of Sir Thomas J Lipton painted in 1896 by Sir Hubert von Herkomer (1849-1914).
Lipton was born in Glasgow in 1850, the son of emigrants who came to Hutchesontown from Northern Ireland to escape the potato famine and opened a small grocery shop. As a young man Lipton worked in a grocery store in New York and when he returned to Glasgow aged 21 he set up his first "Lipton Market", in Stobcross Street.
Lipton established a chain of grocery shops offering customers ham, cheese, tea, butter and other provisions at reasonable prices, promoted with vigour and all manner of attention-grabbing gimmicks. He by-passed the middle man where possible, as in 1890 when he began to acquire tea plantations in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and to process and package the firm's own tea brands.
By 1898 Lipton's commercial empire consisted of twelve tea plantations and branches in 243 British cities and towns. The business was floated as a limited company that year but Lipton remained as chairman until he was ousted in 1927. He died in 1931.
Reproduced with the permission of Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Museums
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