State Express 555, known as 555, is a British brand of cigarette originally manufactured in the United Kingdom by the Ardath Tobacco Company. The overseas rights to the brand, excluding the U.K., were acquired by British American Tobacco (BAT) in 1925. 555 cigarettes were sold widely throughout the world. Today, the brand is still popular in Asia, especially in the Greater China area, Vietnam, and Cambodia. In the United Kingdom, 555 cigarettes are registered and manufactured in Westminster, City of Westminster, London.
They were previously owned by Ardath Tobacco Company but now they are owned by British American Tobacco. They were first introduced in the market on March 10th 1896; 126 years ago, in London.
The name of the company was changed in 1901 to the “Ardath Tobacco Company”, and was split in 1925 when it was sold; British American Tobacco acquired the overseas rights of Ardath, while the Imperial Tobacco Group retained the rights of sale within the United Kingdom and Ireland. The State Express brand proved to be a boon for B.A.T., where it was a huge success in China until the rise of communism there (though it has since been re-introduced). Ardath’s brands continued to be sold in Britain; they were granted a Royal Warrant by King George VI in 1946 and again later by Queen Elizabeth II. In 1961, British American Tobacco bought out Imperial Tobacco’s share of Ardath, thus gaining full control of Ardath’s trademarks.
The idea for the State Express brand came from the United States in 1893. Sir Albert Levy (1864–1937), a London tobacco merchant and businessman, was visiting the United States. While in Manhattan, Levy was a passenger on the Empire State Express train, which allegedly broke land speed records as locomotive No.999, the “Queen of Speed” sped its way from New York City to London.
In addition to the cigarette business, cigars and tobaccos are available in the State Express range. But by far the most successful of these was the Virginia tobacco blend of State Express 555, introduced in 1896. It went on to become Ardath’s flagship brand.