A History of McClelland
History of McClelland Tobacco Company
by Mary McNiel
To tell the true, full history of McClelland, I have to go back 30 years to
1967 when I married a pipe smoker named Carl R. Ehwa, Jr.. In 1969,
he decided his interest in pipes and tobaccos was strong enough that he
wanted to make it his career. He went to work for Fred Diebel, then and
probably now Kansas City’s premier tobacconist.
With that, we embarked upon the study of pipes and the study of tobaccos.
We spent a great deal of time with Carl’s grandparents, Dr. and Mrs. W.C.
McClelland. The blending bar was not yet a fixture in most tobacco shops
then, so the tobaccos we would take home to the McClellands to examine
with a magnifying glass and tweezers were the tinned tobaccos from around
the world that could be found on the Diebel shelves.
Carl called leaf dealers for examples of leaf to work with and we learned
as much as we could about grades and types. Carl developed several blends
for Diebel and Fred was so impressed that he built a small factory with
Carl in charge.
We were building quite a body of knowledge with the research we had done
and Carl decided it might make a really nice book so, in 1971, we took
every spare moment we had for the writing of “The Book of Pipes and
Tobaccos which was published by Random House/Ridge Press in 1974. We
traveled throughout the Southeast going to auctions and touring factories.
We visited pipemakers too, such as Paul Fisher in his New York City
By 1977, Carl wanted to create his own factory and the opportunity
presented itself. So he and I and Carl’s best friend since age 5, Bob
Berish, Jr., established McClelland Tobacco Company in the basement of
Carl’s grandfather’s home. We named the company for Dr. McClelland, a
truly wonderful gentleman, very generous and very kind. He did not live
to see the first sale but he was very much involved in all the
preparations of our debut before his death at age 87.
THE EMBLEM. Many people have asked how a land-locked company in the
heart of America came up with a whale for an emblem. Well, it was Carl’s
idea to use it for the company but it came from a story in my family. My
father came to America in 1915 at the age of 17. He was a poor farm boy
who was on the adventure of his life. No English, $10 in his pocket.
Scared. The trip took a long time. Three months. At one point out in
mid-ocean they saw whales, a pod of whales very near the ship. My father
thought that was the most beautiful thing he’d every seen. Totally
unexpected. Sudden. It changed his whole attitude from one of fear to one
of eager anticipation of the next wondrous and beautiful thing awaiting
him in America.