Alfred Dunhill

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Alfred Dunhill FRSA (30 September 1872 - 2 January 1959) was an English tobacconist and inventor. He is the progenitor of the Dunhill luxury goods company and the Dunhill branded tobacco products from British American Tobacco (now two independently owned entities).


Dunhill was born on the 30 September 1872 at 2 Church Path, Hornsey, Middlesex, the second son of five children of Henry Dunhill (1842–1901), a master blind-maker, and his wife and cousin, Jane, née Styles (1843–1922).[1] Henry Dunhill ran his business from the Euston Road, manufacturing accessories for horse-drawn vehicles.[2] Alfred was educated at a private school in Hampstead and by tutors until he was fifteen, when he joined his father's business.[1]

In 1893 Alfred inherited his father's business and soon began to supply accessories for motor cars under the name Dunhill's Motorities.[2] He married Alice Stapleton (1874–1945) on 15 June 1895.[2] In 1890 he established the Discount Motor Car Company to sell his accessories through mail order.[2] In 1902 he opened his first shop in Conduit Street, Mayfair, selling clothing and accessories to chauffeurs and their employers.[3] He entered the pipemaking business in 1904 when he developed a "windshield pipe" to allow motorists to smoke while driving.[3] In 1907 he opened a small tobacconist's shop on Duke Street in the St James's area.[4] He offered tobacco blends tailored for the individual customer.[3] In 1908 he introduced the first Dunhill cigarette.[5] The shop rapidly prospered.[6] His granddaughter Mary later described his flair as a salesman and a shopkeeper.[7]

A Dunhill Unique lighter bearing a coat of arms

The business expanded, and by 1910 Dunhill had taken additional premises in Duke Street.[1] In 1912 he was joined in the business by his youngest brother, Herbert, and his eldest son, Alfred, followed by his second son, Vernon, in 1913.[3] In 1912 Dunhill introduced the white spot trademark to its pipes.[6]

The post-war period witnessed both expansion and the commissioning of fresh products.[3] The company always ensured its products were covered by patent and trade mark, a policy prosecuted with vigour from the outset.[3] 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.[3] In 1921 the firm received its first royal warrant, as tobacconist to Edward, Prince of Wales.[3] Dunhill also supplied Winston Churchill and Siegfried Sassoon.[8] The 1920s also saw the opening of shops in New York and Paris.[2] Bloomberg Businessweek opined that Dunhill prefigured the modern luxury goods market with its international ambitions.[9] In 1924 the company launched the Unique lighter, a product that Dunhill and his brother had much interest in developing, and was the world's first lighter that could be operated with just one hand.[3]

Dunhill's decision to chair his final meeting of the company on 5 February 1929 was precipitated by personal circumstances.[3] Having placed the firm on a steady course, he felt able to leave his son Alfred in charge.[3] He left his wife and moved to Worthing to join his long-term mistress, Vera Mildred Wright (b. 1902/3), who changed her name to his by deed poll.[3] Dunhill married Vera on 28 March 1945, shortly after the death of his wife.[3] He died at Hopedene Nursing Home, Wordsworth Road, Worthing on 2 January 1959, and was cremated at Golders Green crematorium.[3] His wife survived him.[3]


  1. ^ a b c "Mr. A. Dunhill". The Times. 5 January 1959. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Linda Welters; Abby Lillethun (2011). The Fashion Reader: Second Edition. Berg. p. 509. ISBN 978-1-84788-589-0. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Trompeter, Barbara. "Dunhill, Alfred (1872–1959)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "Mr Alfred Dunhill". The Times. 9 July 1971. 
  5. ^ Chris Harrald; Fletcher Watkins (2013). The Cigarette Book: The History and Culture of Smoking. Skyhorse Publishing Company. p. 110. ISBN 978-1-62873-241-2. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  6. ^ a b "Mary Dunhill". The Times. 27 February 1988. 
  7. ^ Hauptfuhrer, Fred (13 April 1981). "For London's Richard Dunhill, Life's a Lovely Pipe Dream". People. Retrieved 24 December 2013. 
  8. ^ Moorcroft Wilson, Jean (2003). Siegfried Sassoon: The Journey from the Trenches: a Biography (1918-1967). Psychology Press. pp. 161–2. ISBN 978-0-415-96713-6. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  9. ^ "Brand New". Bloomberg Businessweek. 2 October 2005. Retrieved 24 December 2013.