How our Mack took toffee to the States

Baker Fold

Halifax

The recent highlighting of ‘Macks’ by Virginia Mason on her page (Courier, March 16), and the ongoing exhibition at Bankfield, prompts me to relate the following.

Pictures are shown of the advertising which John Mackintosh authorised in North America in 1903. In that year, the US President was Theodore Roosevelt and his was the most familiar face displayed across America. Yet, that same year, it is said that the second most commonly seen portrait in the USA was that of John Mackintosh of Halifax.

In Britain, Mackintosh had refused to have his photo taken for the publicity of his company. But when he planned a high profile business visit to America in 1903, to promote his toffee products, he was advised by PR men that, in their country, publicity required his image to be on display. As a result, the face of John Mackintosh appeared in virtually every magazine and newspaper in the States and Canada. And in the big cities, his image was even displayed on the gable-ends of skyscrapers.

The magazine articles were accompanied by a jingle, to encourage the American public to try Mackintosh’s toffee. Before he visited America, toffee as we know it, was hardly known over there; and Mackintosh decided there was a market to be tapped. He told an American newspaper “I build up my business by giving away my toffee. If I can get a sample into the mouths of the people, I can safely rely upon securing customers.”

Already the previous autumn, Mackintosh had made a quick tour of North America, to sound out business prospects. In April 1903 he crossed the Atlantic on the White Star liner Cedric, and a New York tugboat bearing large placards reading “Welcome to the Toffee King,” steamed out to greet the larger vessel.

Mackintosh had already appointed an agent in New York, and his toffee was being imported from England. In April 1903 he set about locating a suitable factory near New York in which to make toffee. One was found and purchased at Asbury Park, New Jersey. Soon toffee was in full production in North America, and shops were being opened in several cities to market the product. Even before he left America, Mackintosh was known in most cities as the “Toffee King.” Business over there quickly went from strength to strength.

Whilst in America, Mackintosh enjoyed his first motoring experience, and whilst in Philadelphia he visited the grandmother of one of his employees at his Queens Road, Halifax, factory. She greeted him with “Well lad, I dunnot know who tha’ art, but of tha’ comes fra’ Halifax tha’rt reight welcome. Eh! but tha’ knows I left mi heart i’ Queensbury.”

David C Glover