Tabaqueria Filipina, Hwa Ching Tobacco and Colin Mackenzie & Co

York Lo: Tabaqueria Filipina, Hwa Ching Tobacco and Colin Mackenzie & Co

Tabaqueria Filipina and Colin Mackenzie & Co are two historic firms in Hong Kong with long histories (founded in 1888 and 1915 respectively) in the tobacco and pharmaceutical business and were both controlled by theZung (Chen) family from Ningbo after the War. The family was also known for their Hwa Ching Tobacco in Shanghai, whose “My Dear” brand of cigarettes was one of the most popular brands in China in the 1920s and 1930s. 

Tabaqueria Filipina (福和煙公) and Hwa Ching Tobacco Co (華成烟草公司)

Tabaqueria Filipina Image 1 York Lo

Tabaqueria Filipina ad in HK in Christmas 1923. It also sold tennis rackets and mahjong sets in addition to cigarettes and cigars at the time (China Mail, 1923-12-15)

Founded in Shanghai in 1888, Tabaqueria Filipina (hereafter referred to as “TF”)is the oldest and one of the largest distributors of tobacco products in HK and China. It is unclear as to who was the founder of the firm, but the firm’s name suggested Filipino roots/connections and the firm was a leading distributor of Manila cigars in HK and China. In the late 1890s, the manager of TF in Shanghai was H.B. de Souza. (Directory & Chronicle of China, 1894) In the 1900s and 1910s, the firm was run by J. Whey who was supported by S.U. Zau (趙晉卿, 1882-1973) and T.Z. Dzau and its offices was located at 39 and 40 Nanking Road in Shanghai. Zau was the brother in law of T.S. Wu (鄔挺生, 1877-1935), the powerful comprador of British American Tobacco (hereafter refer to as BAT) and Zau himself later served on numerous boards of universities, Christian organizations and companies in Shanghai and advised the Chinese government on tobacco and wine taxation.In its early years, TF was the sole agent for the Anglo Egypt Cigarette Co from Cairo. (Directory & Chronicle of China, 1903 & 1906) By 1907, the firm also had branches in Tientsin, Hankow and Ningpo and was a popular establishment carrying a large collection of Manila, Dutch and Cuban cigars and English, American, Turkish, Egyptian and Russian cigarettes and tobacco, pipes, matchboxes etc. (Seaports of the Far East, 1907)

By the late 1910s, Chen Ven-kee (陳文鑑), the patriarch of the Chen/Zung family was the owner and representative of TF. (Shanghai General Chamber of Commerce directory, 1918).Born in Chinghai in Ningbo in 1873, Ven-kee was also the founder of China Tobacco Co (中國興業煙公司) in Ningbo, one of the earliest Chinese-owned cigarette manufacturers in China in the late 1910s and the owner of Ren Wo Cigar Factory (人和雪茄煙廠), which was founded in Shanghai in 1902. (上海總商會同人錄, 1918) By the early 1920s, TFalready had a branch in HK which was located at 38-40 Queen’s Road Central and was managed by Tin-Sung Liu and supported by Y.M. Liu and J.L. Woo (Comacrib Directory, 1925)

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Left: Hwa Ching Tobacco chief Zung Tso-sung;Right: “My Dear” cigarette packaging

Chen’s eldest son Zung Tso-sung (陳楚湘, 1897-1973) started his career in the tobacco industry after high school in 1916 when he joined the sales department of BAT in Shanghai. Three years later, he joined father’s businesses andin 1924, he teamed up with Tai Ching-hsin (戴耕莘, 1895-1956), who inherited his father’s metals business to take over Hwa Ching Tobacco, a small cigarette firm founded in 1917 by the Sung family that was struggling under the shadows of dominant competitors BAT and Nanyang Brothers. While Zung served as director of TF, he left the management of the firm to his younger brother Zung Tso-ching (陳楚泉) while he focused his energy on Hwa Ching as its managing director. As 1924 was the Year of the Golden Rat, Tai and Zung decided to name one of their cigarette brands – “The Rat” (金鼠牌). Riding the wave of patriotism after the May 30 incident in 1925, they launched the “My Dear” brand (美丽牌) in October 1925, which was inspired by the beautiful Chinese opera singer Lu Meiyu (吕美玉) whose picture they used in the brand’s cigarette package (this later resulted in a lawsuit and Lu received compensation as part of the settlement). In March 1926, Hwa Ching formed a partnership in Canton with Tsao Koon-eing (曹冠英), the Zung family’s partner at TF in Hong Kong to serve as distributor of its cigarettes in southern and southwestern China. In September of the same year, a branch was established in Hankow for distribution in Central China and additional branches were later established in Hangchow (1927), Ningbo (1930), Tientsin (1932) and Nanking (1935).

To promote its products, Hwa Ching hired the top designer from Nanyang Brothers to create a series of popular calendar posters and advertisements and combined with aggressive marketing campaigns featuring print and outdoor advertising on billboards and omnibuses, “The Rat” and “My Dear” quickly became two of the most popular brands not only in Shanghai but the rest of China by the early 1930s and Hwa Ching’s workforce had grown from 140 in 1924 to 2000 in 1929 to 3700 in 1937 with 53 cigarette machines at the Shanghai factory. Annual sales jumped from 11,018 boxes in 1925 to 29270 boxes in 1926 to 50364 boxes in 1929 to 104,692 boxes in 1935, a tenfold growth within a decade.The success attracted intense competition from BAT and Nanyang Bros in the forms of price war, trademark lawsuits and advertising campaigns but Hwa Ching managed to hold its own despite these challenges and health issues of Tai and Zung.

Tabaqueria Filipina Image 3 York Lo

Packaging for Hwa Ching’s “The Rat” brand of cigarettes; Right: double-decker bus in old Shanghai with advertisement for Hwa Ching’s “My Dear” brand of cigarettes

In the 1930s, TF in HK served as distributor of Hwa Ching’s tobacco products in China in addition to selling cigarettes and cigars from around the world. The listing for Tabaqueria Filipina in a HK shopping guide in 1931 described that “the stocks of smokers’ requisites carried in this store are large and varied, including a fine selection of Dunhill pipes” and the firm “have all the best known brands of American tobacco and cigarettes in stock and they are also famous for the lines of Manila cigars which they carry”. (China Mail, 1932-3-30) In 1940, its HK offices was located at Shell House at 26 Queen’s Road Central. (The Chinese Yearbook, 1940) By that time, TF also had a branch at 22 Des Voeux Road Central and 18 Hankow Road in Kowloon in addition to a branch in Macao. In addition to Tsao Koon-eing, TF in HK at the time was managed by two other fellow Ningbo natives of the Zung family -Hudson Chen Wood (吳百鎭)who was manager of the firm and Tsiang You-may (張友梅, 1890-1968, aka T.Y. May), who was director and also factory manager and director of Ren Wo Cigar Factory in Shanghai.

Like many other Chinese manufacturers at the time, Hwa Ching played up its Chinese roots to Chinese consumers who were eager for Chinese products to support the fight against Japanese aggression at the time.In August 1937, the Japanese launched its attack on Shanghai andHwa Ching’s main factory in Shanghai was destroyed during an air raid in September.The firm continued its production by outsourcing to other firms until production commenced at its new factory in Shanghai in March 1942 with 21 machines. By that time, Shanghai had fallen to the Japanese and as raw materials, electricity and sales were tightly controlled under Japanese occupation, Hwa Ching’s production was significantly reduced and only employed 530 workers. After the War was over, the annual production at Hwa Ching rebounded to 43046 boxes in 1946, 65246 boxes in 1947 and 71395 boxes in 1948. After the Communists came to power in 1949, Zung Tso-sung, Tai, and Tsao all stayed in the mainland and Hwa Ching continued to grow, with annual production of 30000-50000 boxes in the early 1950s and became a public private enterprise in 1955 withZung staying on as managing director.  Tai died in Shanghai of cancer in 1956 whileZung died in 1973 and Tsao died in Guangzhou in 1978.

Tabaqueria Filipina Image 4 York Lo

Management team of Hwa Ching and Tabaqueria Filipina in HK in the early 1930s. Hudson Chen Wood (first from the left), Zung Tso-sung (first from right), Zung’s twin younger brothers (second and third from left), Tai Ching-hsin (eight from the left) and Tsao Koon-eing (with sunglasses, third from the right)

Tabaqueria Filipina Image 5 York Lo

Left: “My Dear” ad on the front page of Shen Pao in Shanghai in 1931 encouraging Chinese consumers to buy Chinese cigarettes with a map of Manchuria at the top which was being invaded by the Japanese at the time. Right: Front page ad for “My Dear” cigarettes in HK in 1935 (KSDN, 1935-2-25)

Tabaqueria Filipina in Hong Kong

Tabaqueria Filipina Image 6 York Lo

Left: Tabaqueria Filipina’s Hudson Chen Wood and Conee Chang at the Chinese New Year banquet organized by the American trading firm Muller & Phipps for distributors of Camel, Winston and Salem cigarettes at the Ying King restaurant in Wanchai in 1960. Left to right: Tam Luk of Man Cheung Tong, Far East rep of RJ Reynolds, Yeung Yat-sing, Paul Bordwell of Muller& Phipps, Hudson Chen Wood, Conee Chang, T.S. Cheng from Muller &Phipps. (KSEN, 1960-2-26); Right: Chinese ad for Tabaqueria Filipina in HK in Christmas 1940 (TKP, 1940-12-21)

In the late 1940s, TF was operating out of 22B Des Voeux Road Central in HK and 397 Nathan Road in Kowloon. In addition to tobacco, it was also sold wines and spirits and was managed by Hudson Chen Wood with Conee Chang (張江宜) as sub-manager supported by H.V. Wong, W.C. Chow, P.N. Yu, P.S. Chow, W.S. Wong, S.C. Wood, T.F. Ling and Kweir H. Jinn. (Business Directory of HK, Canton and Macao, 1949). Zung Tso-ching also joined from Shanghai.

Wood’s son Tommy Wood (吳祖道) joined TF in the 1950s and married the granddaughter of former KMT premier Hsu Siying (許世英) in 1958. The wedding banquet at the Chung Kwok restaurant was attended by over 600 guests including the Who’s Who of the Shanghainese community in HK who were covered earlier such as Paul Y. Tso, John Tung, Siao Sam-ping and S.T. King, cigarette tycoon Lo Min-nung and former Foreign Minister Dr. C.T. Wang. In 1960, Hudson Chen Wood teamed up with preserved ginger magnate Ma To-sang, Central Building developer MokTsze-fung and tea merchant Kwan Fan-fat (see article) to establish Sang Lee Investment to develop properties.

Tabaqueria Filipina Image 7 York Lo

Left: Wedding picture of Tommy Wood in 1958(WKYP, 1958-2-9); Right: Ad for the opening of Tabaqueria Filipina’s Kowloon branch in 1947 (WKYP, 1947-6-26) ;

When the Ocean Terminal opened in 1966, Tabaqueria Filipina and its affiliate Colonial Dispensary(see next section) weretwo of its first tenants alongside Cost Plus Bazaar (see article), Maxims, Mode Elite (see article) and Beten’s.

TF director Tsiang You-maydied in May 1968 at the HK Sanatorium and was survived by two sons Hong-nin and Kwan-nin and grandsons Ching-po (張正甫, same Chinese name as Clarence Chang, veteran TV producer and husband of actress Josephine Siao but to be confirmed if they are the same person), Wang-po and Chung-po and is buried in the Tsuen Wan Chinese Permanent Cemetery (WKYP, 1968-5-18; HK Epitaphs: Kowloon & New Territories Edition)

By the early 1980s, Hudson Chen Wood and Conee Chang remained chairman and sub-manager of TF in HK and the board of the firm also includedZung Tso-Ching, ZungTshou-Van, Wong Hung-van and Wood’s sons Tommy and Paul Wood. (Hongkong $ Directory, 1977 &1980) By the late 1980s, TF was operating out of the ground floor of Central Building with Tommy Wood as chairman, Zung Gee-liang(陳其良, hereafter refer to as G.L. Zung) as general manager, Paul Wood as joint-manager and Yu Chun-kwan as secretary. Other directors includedZung Gee-ming, Lam Hoi-leung, Wong Hung-van and Cheung Ching-po. (Hong Kong $ Directory, 1988) G.L.Zung, likely a son of Zung Tso-ching, was a graduate of the University of Shanghai and served as director of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals in 1966-67. (KSEN, 1966-4-26)

Colin Mackenzie & Co (安寧化學製藥廠) and Colonial Dispensary (安寧大藥房)

Colin Mackenzie & Co, which also operated under the name of Colonial Dispensary, was founded in 1915 by Colin Mackenzie with $50000 in capital. Mackenzie attended DBS and at first wanted to become a doctor but later took up chemistry and became a pharmacist.

In 1919, a Colonial Dispensary employee by the name of Tong Hok-ling was charged with four counts of selling poison and was defended by C.G. Alabaster. (HK Daily Press, 1919-4-24)

In the mid-1920s, Colonial’s address was listed as 14 Queen’s Road Central and its manager was J. Duguid. (Comacrib Directory, 1925) In 1928, the firm made a window display which featured continuous flow of Milton Antiseptic into a small chemist measured powered by electricity which attracted a lot of attention. (China Mail, 1928-6-29) In 1930, the authorized capital was increased to $100,000 to enable expansion but the Depression intervened.

A member of the Rationalist Association, Colin Mackenzie died suddenly in his sleep in February 1931 at his home in United Terrace in Kowloon and was survived by his wife and siblings – Alick Mackenzie of Standard Oil, Alan Mackenzie of Dairy Farm, Mrs. Ezra Abraham, Mrs. W. Goldenberg and Miss Violet Mackenzie. (HK Daily Press, 1931-2-12)

In 1936, Colin Mackenzie & Co applied to Court to reduce its capital from $100,000 to $75000 and the application was done by George She (later headmaster of DBS) under the instructions by H.K. Hung.  (HK Telegraph, 1936-5-6) In the late 1940s, the firm operated out of Gloucester Building on Pedder Street and its chairman was S.M. Churn of China Provident while its chemist was G.E. Morton and Tong Hok-ling, who was charged with selling poison in 1919 was still on its staff. The firm was the agent for Innoxa Beauty Products at the time. (Business Directory of HK, Canton and Macao, 1949)

Tabaqueria Filipina Image 8 York Lo

Window display of Colonial Dispensary on Pedder Street during the Pharmacy Week in 1955. (WKYP, 1955-6-20)

By the 1950s, Colin Mackenzie and Colonial Dispensary was controlled by the Zung and Wood families of TF. In 1957, Zung Tso-ching and his brother ZungThsou-wan and Hudson Chen Wood incorporated Colin Mackenzie & Co (Manufacturing) Ltd with $420,000 in capital to manufacture tablets, cream, ointments and injections. Wood’s address was listed as 8 Tin Hau Temple Road while the Zung brothers were living on Chatham Road (FEER, 1957)

In 1977, G.L. Zung together with Laurence A.E. Leong (梁天賜), Chen Tak-yung (陳德筠), Sin Lam-kong (冼林江), James M.H. Lau (柳文海), Wong Chor-choi (黃佐材) and Yeung Chak-lau (楊澤流) formed the Hong Kong Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association.

By the early 1990s, S.T. Zau was chairman of Colin Mackenzie while G.L. Zung was managing director and directors included Zung Gee-ming and Alice Lee Zung. (Directory of HK Industries, 1991)

As a firm, Colin Mackenzie & Co Ltd was dissolved in 2002 while Colin Mackenzie & Co (Manufacturing) Ltd was dissolved in 2004.

Sources (other than those cited above):

This article was first posted on 12th July 2021.nanh

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