The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
The Sailors: Sir Thomas Lipton

Born in Glasgow to Irish parents, Lipton immigrated to America in 1865 and worked as a farm laborer and in a grocer’s shop.  He returned to Glasgow in 1870 and opened his first tea shop.  Ten years later, Lipton was a millionaire who owned tea estates in Sri Lanka and meat processing factories in the U.S.

In the tea industry, Lipton was innovative: he was the first to package tea in small, convenient tins to keep it fresh and preserve the flavor and he invented the flo-thru tea bag, which allowed boiling water to reach the tea more easily.

Lipton’s favorite pastime was sailing.  His fortune allowed him to enter boats (all named Shamrock) into the America’s Cup five times (1899, 1901, 1903, 1920, and 1930).  He never won, but was well-loved by the world because of his good nature after losing, for which the United States presented Lipton with his own gold cup.

Photograph: Sir Thomas Lipton, c1910—Library of Congress