Germany the military element is uppermost; in Russia,
the police; in England, the civilian power is the greatest. Long may it
continue!"—"Notes of Travel," by John Mackintosh.
John Mackintosh was built on spacious lines. He was a
big man with great ideas and high aims. He was not satisfied with what had
been already attained, nor did he wait on events, but made them wait on
him, by sheer force of will and brilliant enterprise. No sooner was his
home organisation adequate to home demands, than he began to look farther
afield for other markets and channels of supply.
He travelled much for such a busy man, and he got
great pleasure out of his travels, but he always had before him a definite
business purpose. His journeys were not more wonderful in themselves than
those of other men, but they were unique in this, that they were
undertaken to advance business in such a simple commodity as toffee.
His habit of writing copious notes and keeping
diaries of his travels enables us to follow him, and shows us the
various countries he visited from the point of view of a business man.
These notes give the vivid impressions of a young but keenly observant
Englishman, and they contain both graphic descriptions of scenery and
shrewd observations on the manners and customs of various nations. At this
period he was a little over thirty years of age, carrying the
burden of a growing business at home, yet venturing abroad and dreaming of
extending his business on a world-wide scale.
He commenced his first tour of
Northern Europe in July, 1902. The operations of the American Beef Trust
of that day, having made it more profitable to kill than to keep alive,
had so affected the world's butter market that it was essential for all in
whose business butter was a staple commodity to look further afield for
their supplies. At that time Siberian butter was coming into the market.
Previously it was little known; but with the opening of the Trans-Siberian
Railway, the establishment of collecting depots throughout Siberia, and
the granting of facilities on the Russian railways, there came rapid
development. Huge cold stores were erected at Riga, with English capital
and by an English company, for butter storage; and for the first time the
products of Siberia were available for Southern Europe.
The object of this tour was to
explore the possibilities of the new Russian butter market, and if the
quality of the butter was satisfactory to obtain regular supplies.
The route followed is given by Mr.
Mackintosh in the following note :-
We called first at Brussels, then
at Cologne, then at Berlin. Next, after a thirty-hour railway journey, we
reached Riga, Russia's greatest Baltic port. Thence we journeyed to St.
Petersburg (now Petrograd), and again to Helsingfors. We sailed to
Stockholm, threading our way for twenty-four hours through a perfect
archipelago of islands, ranging from the merest hummock of rocks to
islands half a mile or more in length. From Stockholm we travelled
overland to Christiania, and thence to Gothenburg. Again journeying
southwards, we crossed to Copenhagen, then to Hamburg, passing the
Hohenzollern and a fleet of German warships at Kiel. Next we journeyed to
Amsterdam, spent an afternoon at Scheveningen, a night at The Hague, a
morning at 'The House in the Wood,' where the first Peace Conference
assembled; and then, after a brief visit to Rotterdam, we took the boat
from the Hook of Holland to Harwich, and reached London just in time for
"In the course of our journey we traversed some 3,000
miles, spent seven nights in 'Sleeping Cars,' two in steamers, passed the
Customs eleven times, dealt with people speaking five different languages,
and using six different coinages."
At all stopping places there were
interviews with business men, letters to be answered, enquiries to be
"Good-bye to English money," he writes, except
sovereigns and £5 notes, which even Russians don't despise. If English
people were only as well respected as their gold they would indeed feel
That was in "The days of old, the days of gold," and
not in these days of "notes " and scraps of paper."
Here is a pleasing incident,
characteristic of the man, which took place in a railway carriage, on the
route between London and Dover, on the outward journey :-
In our carriage was a young French
family of girls leaving father and mother, and returning to France in
charge of grandmother. The baby soon got tired and began to fret. Taking
the child on my knee, and playing tricks learned in boyhood's days, amused
the French baby, helped to dry its tears, and so cheer the grandmother.
Moral—take an interest in children's play as well as in their lessons.
What cares baby for Browning or Michael Angelo? A paper ship, to its
little mind, is as a Great Eastern. A railway, engine cut from a paper
conjures up in its mind real smoke and puff-puff included. At any rate it
forgets its troubles until we steam into Dover. What a grand view of the
chalk cliffs I Shall we see anything to compare during our butter-hunt?"
He was no linguist, but he had a
ready wit, and with a few words gleaned from many languages he was able to
get about with remarkable ease.
"Ticket collectors," he writes,
"and such like officials were dealt with by appearing learned, and no
doubt they thought we knew several languages more than they did ! It is
wonderful how far cheek will carry you, if it is accompanied with a
But when he was really in need of something definite,
the mere appearance of learning was woefully inadequate. At the Riga
Hotel, having decided to have boiled eggs, the problem to be solved was
how to make the waiter comprehend. When he failed to make the right
impression by "clucking," he began to "crow," and the waiter's face
immediately lighted up with intelligence. The difficulty was surmounted,
and the eggs were obtained. When he was in Petrograd, thinking he would
like honey for breakfast, he beckoned the waiter and began buzzing to
imitate the bee. At length the waiter cried, "Ya! ya! ze fabric," and went
for the "Business Directory" containing the addresses of the factories,
having mistaken the intended buzzing of the bee for the hum of machinery.
In Petrograd he discovered what
appeared to him to be a partial solution of the language difficulty. He
tells us that:-
"Outside many shops are signs which denote at once what is sold therein.
Fruit shops have elaborate paintings of oranges, grapes, &c. Glovers have
gloves represented, and so on. This is a good idea, as even Englishmen can
read pictures. Would it not be a great convenience if all nations would
adopt some universal language, either of pictures or words?
He loved to sit, note-book in hand, in a railway
carriage, or on board a steamer, and record his impressions when passing
through beautiful country, or along a river winding through picturesque
scenery. Here is a word picture of what he sees from the train as it
speeds along from Berlin to the Russian frontier.
"I am at the rear of the train. Look along that
single track. Straight as a die it runs to where the rails appear to taper
to a point. On either side the woods crowd in, black shadows under the
trees, and ghostly eyes looking through the leafy screen. Who can look
into those shadows without recalling tales heard by winter fires of wolves
and bears? Suddenly there is a gash in the forest through which we race.
The woods have taken fright I Away go the trees in sudden panic across the
fields I They pause presently to consider, then mustering courage they
scamper back again and gaze with curious eyes upon the train.
"And now night has fallen. The moon appears over the
pine-tree tops. The forests drift dimly by and silence reigns in the
What a remarkably
vivid picture of what most of us have seen, but which no one seems to have
before attempted to describe I It is like a peep at the cinema.
"Later the passengers
bestir themselves. Books and papers are put away. Bags are closed
and strapped. Hats and wraps are resumed. The brakes grind on the wheels,
and the train comes to a standstill.
"We are now at the Russian
frontier station, and all we have ever heard of the Russian Military
Police comes to mind. We are conscious of a sense of guilt, a subtle
feeling of apprehension. We hear the clank of swords I The police are
coming down the train ! They peer into every compartment. They pause at
ours, and look at us! We see the peaked cap, the broad stern face, the
coat, the bright top-boots, and heave a sigh of relief as the men pass on.
We are not known here evidently I Our criminal tendencies are not
perceived I How glad we are we had time to conceal the bomb we were
preparing, the knife with which we meant to ......!"
The people in charge of the gates
at the level- crossings salute the train, and cause the diarist to make
the following amusing comment:-
"All the family seem to be
awaiting our arrival, and the man in charge stands up as straight as a
line-prop with a piece of wood to his shoulder as if it were a gun, and
salutes the train. You see all the trains in Russia are Government trains
and therefore are the Czar's. But this is a special one, for you know the
'Toffee King ' is aboard II!"
After passing the frontier, on
entering the train, he was greeted in the broad Doric so dear and familiar
to him:—"An yo' getten through au reet?" "Good old LancashireI" he
exclaimed, "we'll make use of you." Later on, when he was in difficulties
in Petrograd, he called on this gentleman and found him in charge of a
cotton factory, of which he was manager. The Lancastrian was delighted to
be of service to the Yorkshireman.
The tender of the Russian train was
piled high with logs to use as fuel for the engine. Mr.. Mackintosh
appreciated this and declared that—
After the awful, evil-smelling coal used by the
Germans, it was quite pleasant to have the smell from the burning wood.
There is not half the smoke, and at night time, when they are firing up,
the sparks fly in showers, enough to afford every boy all the joys of
'November Plot night."
His first drive in Riga was not altogether a Joy-ride!
"We took a padded box on wheels, drawn by a
half-broken animal they called a horse. Driving is very cheap in Riga; and
it ought to be, for money does not represent all you have to pay. A
Russian could not possibly drive twenty yards without lashing the horse.
Then the carriages have no springs, and the roads are laid with great
cobble-stones in the towns; in the outskirts they are left to mend
themselves to a great extent."
thought that we had something to learn from the working-men on the
Continent in regard to politeness.
"I saw one man stand at the door of a workshop and
shake hands with seven of his work-mates. Catch an Englishman doing such a
thing! I saw even boys of ten or twelve years
shake hands and raise their hats to each other. I know many Englishmen
think it effeminate to be so gushing, and no doubt it can be overdone. But
I think we might take a lesson from the
foreigner in respect of politeness. If we feel polite, why not show it?"
A strong sense of humour was one of Mr. Mackintosh's
characteristics. He always saw the comic side of a
situation. For example take the following :-
It is easy to enter an hotel. The
porter is there to receive you. The lift boy is there to salute you as you
pas to the lift. The head-waiter will bring you 'Vat you please!' The
driver of the hotel-bus hands down your little bags as if they were trunks
from America. 'Boots' conveys your belongings to your room. The
chambermaid (on the Continent she is fifty, usually) peers at you over the
railings, wondering if you are of the generous sort. Yes, it is easy to
enter an hotel. You feel that at last you are receiving the recognition
due to your worth. But coming out is a different matter! I will not harrow
your feelings by dwelling on it ; only remember, the folk who help you in
will be there when you come out."
Here is another shrewd comment:-"
If you want to know how it feels to he a king or an emperor for a day, go
about giving half-crowns to waiters and the like, and long before bed-time
you will feel inclined to kick everybody within reach."
At Riga his butter-hunt was
crowned with success. From the attitude of the merchants he came to the
conclusion that they meant business. They tried hard to appear
unconcerned, but every time he wandered from butter to talk about Riga,
they brought him back to the subject with:
"Yes, butter is dear this season."
It happened that one of the
refrigerator trains coming from Siberia to Riga with butter a few days
previously had been wrecked; several wagons had jumped the lines and
plunged into a river, and in consequence the whole consignment, whether
damaged or not, had been refused. An enterprising butter merchant accepted
the risks and purchased the whole of it. Mr. Mackintosh got into touch
with this man, and spent the next few days in the Union Cold Store at
Riga, where he tasted more butter than he had ever done before, or has
since. There was a young man from Hull in the office, and Yorkshire- men
are very clannish. He gave a quiet nod to indicate where the undamaged
butter was stored. It was terribly cold, and to prevent frost bite,
sacking was tied round both arms and legs while he was in the
refrigerator. In the end Mr. Mackintosh bought over £5,000 worth of that
butter, and arranged for it to be transferred to cold store at Hull. It
was a memorable purchase for the business in its early development, for
the entire butter supply for the whole year was thus secured at a time
when it was almost impossible to buy butter in large quantities in
With his genius for advertisement here was an
opportunity not to be missed. He had a block prepared representing a
railway train loaded with hundreds of kegs of butter, and over it this
announcement:-"The largest consignment of butter ever purchased by a firm
of manufacturing confectioners in one consignment." A photograph also of
the cheque paid was reproduced.
In Riga Mr. Mackintosh noted the
absence of statues as compared with Berlin, and a business man replied,
"We cannot afford statues here we are too poor. When we want to perpetuate
the memory of a man we name a street after him. It is cheaper than a
statue, and just as effective."
After leaving Riga, he was able to
give himself more to the enjoyment of his tour, for now the chief object
of his visit had been achieved, and it only remained for him to secure
agents in the various cities visited.
Of Petrograd he wrote:-
"We found things to look more and
more strange here. The lower orders of the people looked like so many
grizzly bears walking about. The drivers of carriages were as numerous as
flies, and they wore long brown hair and beards and shaggy eye-brows.
There is a great number of churches in this city, many of them very fine
indeed; some with dome tops painted sky-blue, with stars of silver. When
the sun is shining the effect is beautiful. One doesn't often see stars in
the day-time, but here they are in full glory."
At the cotton mill of which his
Lancashire friend was manager, Mr. Mackintosh was reminded of home when he
saw the Russian women with shawls over their heads, the shawls being well
decorated with cotton fluff. "The English workman," said the manager, "is
superior to the Russian. If Russians were left without an over- looker
they would sit down and go to sleep." "And who can wonder," replied Mr.
Mackintosh, "with their long hours, poor food and shelter, and all for
three shillings a day!"
One •rnan refused a tip. This
remarkable incident occurred in Petrograd. He had taken Mr. Mackintosh's
luggage to the left luggage office. The attendant locked it in his own
private cup-board and made no charge. At train time Mr. Mackintosh
re-claimed his bag. Standing by the attendant was a high official in
brilliant uniform. Mr. Mackintosh offered a tip, but it was declined! The
poor man's face was a study, disappointment and dread showing through the
mask of his incorruptibility!
What Mr. Mackintosh thought of Petrograd was
expressed in characteristic fashion:-"I should say our old proverb needs
revising thus, 'From Efull, Hell, and St. Petersburg, Good Lord deliver
us! ' (and give Halifax a rest)."
Christiania was so beautiful in his eyes that it
exceeded the limits of his descriptive powers.
We looked over a great forest of pine-trees, and
Christiania appeared like a town in toy-land behind us the Fjord that
opens out to the North Sea, and a stretch of imagination showed us the
hills of Yorkshire. They were there sure enough, those hills right across
the water. I cannot describe the grand view with anything like the justice
due to it, but if it is any compliment to the view, I confess that as I
stood on that hill drinking in the glorious sight, I wished all my friends
could be put into a ship and pushed right across the sea and up the hill
to this very spot. I may have been intoxicated with the sight, and this
may have accounted for such an impossible wish, but anything which makes
man or woman wish good things for others must he of God."
Here is the kindly humorous philosopher. He was very
weary after two nights spent in the train and retired to rest, but a
Military Band playing popular airs in the restaurant below made sleep
"There was no poetry in the music for me. A sleepy
man distorts every sound he hears into ugly shape. It was the same band
that was dispensing sweet music on the following day as I sat at lunch. I
looked in vain for the hag of tins which I could have sworn accompanied
the music the night before. Is not this often our way of looking at things
that give us no pleasure, so that we find fault with the things that give
pleasure to others? We are vexed because children at their play make so
much noise. A mother who has a child in the group can hear music in their
voices. Yes, many of our displeasures are of our own imagination, or arise
through our narrow views of life."
At Keil Mr. Mackintosh had an
exciting adventure, which he related with much dry humour. The German
Fleet was there escorting the Royal Yacht, with the Kaiser on board. On
landing at the quay, with a few minutes to spare before his train left for
Hamburg, Mr. Mackintosh hurried into a splendidly furnished apartment,
which he thought was a refreshment room. He entered with a rush, and half
a dozen German officers dashed after him, their swords rattling on the
polished floor as they ran. Somewhat disconcerted, he asked if it was not
the restaurant? Much to his relief they all roared with laughter. It was
explained to him that he had entered the private reception room of the
"All-Highest," who was expected at any moment.
After visiting some of the ancient
castles on the Rhine, a very typical note appears in his diary:-
"I am afraid my blood is too
thick, as it never jumps in my veins at the sight of old things, except
old people. I never see an old person without being touched somehow. But
what does appeal to me is the setting that often surrounds these relics of
This first Continental tour is described in fuller
detail, because it was the first, and the impressions made upon his mind
were more vivid. On many subsequent occasions he visited the Continent,
and no country across the Channel was left ignorant of Mr. Mackintosh's
manufactures. Amongst Continental nations "Mackintosh's Toffee " became as
well known as it was in England.
In Germany, about the year 1906,
he established a factory at Crefeld, near Cologne, which was in active
operation until the outbreak of war. Factories established abroad were
always placed in charge of men sent from the home works. Unfortunately,
several of these men were interned when war was declared, but happily they
all came safely through the trying years of captivity.
Mr. Mackintosh personally fostered
the business in Germany. He visited the factory every year, and though he
had no knowledge of the German language, he was able to travel about and
to transact business wherever he went. He opened a series of retail shops
throughout Germany, and built up a considerable trade) the whole of which
was lost as a consequence of the war.
He narrowly escaped being involved
in the terrible disaster which befel the S.S. Berlin, which was totally
wrecked off the Hook of Holland, on Feb. 21st, 1907. Mr. Mackintosh had
crossed only the previous night. His foreman, who followed the next night,
lost his life. Mr. Mackintosh hurried back to the Hook and had the
terrible trying and harrowing experience of having to identify the body
from amongst the many victims of that frightful tragedy. He also witnessed
some of the gallant rescues from the wreck effected by the Prince Consort
of the Queen of Holland, whose heroism won the admiration of all brave
The introduction of Mackintosh's Toffee to Continental
peoples was not so simple a matter as it might appear. Many ridiculous
mistakes were made through the confusion of toffee with coffee. Toffee was
an absolute novelty to the people, and many letters were received by the
firm from customers stating that they had poured the boiling water on the
toffee without satisfactory results.
Eventually the Toffee became so
well known in Germany and the surrounding countries, that it was accepted
as a symbol of British manufactures. It was no uncommon thing to see in a
shop- window of a Gentleman's Outfitters, whose goods were chiefly of
British origin, a few tins of "Mackintosh's." These were supposed to give
just that touch requisite to prove that the business was of a genuine
British character. The toffee was not for sale, but was treated by the
shop keeper as part of his window-dressing outfit, the British "Hall Mark"
of his stock in trade.
Mr. Mackintosh's foreign trade was
by no means restricted to the Continent of Europe. He extended his
operations throughout the world. Before the war a third of the total
output of the factories in England was exported to foreign countries. The
"Globe-trotter" found that there was not a port at which he called where
Mackintosh's Toffee was unprocurable. The business was pushed forward into
over forty countries, from Borneo to Nigeria, and from Rangoon to Morocco.
The name "Mackintosh" has become a
household word in all the British Colonies. Factories were established in
Canada and Australia. Special lines have been manufactured to meet the
tastes of the natives of Africa and China. The Chinese love a sweetmeat to
be nicely coloured pink, and the demand was promptly met. The foreign
missionary frequently became, unconsciously, a pioneer in opening up new
business in far distant corners of the earth, and as the result of his
enquiring for "Mackintosh's" at the native store, a case of toffee would
be included in the next consignment of mixed goods from London.
Another curious incident is
related by Mr. P. Richardson, a railway detective in Central Africa, whose
work takes him into all kinds of out-of-the-way places. He was searching
for a Zulu railway thief at Somkele in Zululand, and on arriving at a
native kraalhe examined what he calls a "rabble," a sort of dump, when to
his surprise he came across three of "Mackintosh's Toffee" tins, one of
which contained some toffee in good condition. He was not successful in
locating the thief, but felt that he was in a measure compensated by the
toffee, and despite the intense heat returned to his hotel quite
The difficulty of keeping sweetmeats in good condition
in tropical climates at first occasioned much trouble. Not only is the
heat destructive, but insect pests penetrate the packing case and devour
the toffee. In some parts of India, for instance, if the lid is left off a
tin of toffee for half an hour the entire contents disappear. From Africa
came repeated instructions to pack the tins in small cases, doubly tin
lined. The boxes must be small to enable the natives to carry them on
their hacks, and must be tin-lined to prevent the ravages of the white
An amusing incident comes to our knowledge as we write.
At Basra, in Mesopotamia, a local hotel took fire. It was a wooden
building occupied chiefly by English officers and their wives. An Arab
fire-brigade arrived in seriocomic style, and set to work to extinguish
the flames. At length the Chief noticed that one of the firemen was
missing. A careful search discovered him squatting on the ground with a
four- pound tin of "Mackintosh's" on his knees, and hugely enjoying the
contents while the hotel continued to burn merrily.
In the year 1907 the Royal Warrant
appointing the firm Purveyors to the Royal Household was conferred by
Alexandra, then England's Queen. Mr. and Mrs. Mackintosh were invited to
and attended, a royal garden-party at Marlborough house, when Mr.
Mackintosh had the honour of being presented to Queen Alexandra and to the
present King and Queen, then Prince and Princess of Wales.
Writing in his own delightfully
whimsical manner about the Royal Warrant, which is one of the most coveted
honours a manufacturer can hope for, he says :-
"The Royal appointment is to
business what knighthood is to the individual. The magic coat of arms on
one's stationery is like the "Hall Mark" on silver. It is even more useful
in foreign countries than at home, for when the merchant abroad is
wondering where to place his orders, the Royal coat of arms often decides
him. It also helps at an interview in handing in one's card. The lion and
the unicorn do the trick, when otherwise an interview would be difficult.
Occasionally, when I have been unable to make myself understood, I have
handed my card to the official, whereupon he has saluted me and troubled
me very little, thinking no doubt that I was at least an ambassador."