Pinkerton Tobacco was founded in 1887 by John W. Pinkerton when he bought controlling interest in the Worstall Cigar and Tobacco company in Zanesville, Ohio. He set out to make the best flavored scrap tobacco on the market. On August 5th, 1887, he created the formula for Red Man chewing tobacco, which has become the best-selling chewing tobacco in the world.
To grow his successful plug tobacco business, Pinkerton sold ownership through stock to seven investors. After a business dispute with the initial investors, Pinkerton bought out his original investors by selling stock to one of their largest competitors, Duke Trust and became part of The American Tobacco Company.
In 1904, Red Man Chew was launched in Zanesville and quickly expanded to Toledo and Cincinnati. Soon afterwards, Pinkerton moved their plant to Toledo. The Duke Trust was split up by the Supreme Court in 1911 using the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. The split moved Pinkerton ownership to Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company and for a while, Pinkerton brands were produced in St. Louis and Toledo.
The Great Depression took its toll on Pinkerton; however, Pinkerton vowed to not lay off a single employee. After the Great Depression, sales rose steadily for the next several decades.
During World War II sugar rationing limited the amount of sugar available to flavor Red Man Chew. Sherwood Pinkerton Jr., President of the company and a chemist, discovered a way to maintain the great taste of Red Man Chewing Tobacco by using sugar substitutes from natural fruits. Pinkerton Tobacco produced this formula from 1942 – 1950s.