Benson & Hedges was founded in London in 1873 by Richard Benson and William Hedges as Benson and Hedges Ltd. Alfred Paget Hedges succeeded his father in the business in 1885, the same year which Richard Benson left the business. The 1900s saw branches of Benson & Hedges Ltd. opening in the United States and Canada. In 1928, the American branch became independent, and was bought by Philip Morris in 1958. Benson & Hedges Ltd in the UK was acquired by the Gallaher Group in 1955.
A Royal Warrant was issued to the British company in 1878, after the required five years of supply to the Royal Family. This was the brand of cigarettes preferred by King George VI, who was famed for his heavy cigarette smoking. The royal warrant was revoked in 1999 due to a “lack of demand in the royal households”. The Warrant seal, which had previously been on the flip lid of the box, was removed.
In July 1968, Philip Morris released Virginia Slims which were a spin-off of Benson & Hedges intended to be sold to women. They were sold during a period of time where society was beginning to realize the dangers of smoking. Therefore, they were a thinner and more “elegant” alternative to regular cigarettes.