The origins of Smith Bell & Company, Inc. date to 1838, when a young Scotsman named James Adam Smith was sent to the Philippines to look after the interest of Jardine Matheson & Company. Six years later, after establishing good connections, Smith went into partnership with Henry Constable and Robert Philip Wood. This partnership eventually served as the foundation of what was to become Smith Bell & Company, Inc. By June of 1846, Wood opened the firm of Constable, Wood and Company.
The name Smith Bell & Company finally came into being when Robert Wood set up partnership with an American named Lawrence R. Bell. Bell managed the company for a while after Wood left for England. Eventually, Bell also left Manila for unknown reason but the name continued to stay ever since.
REVOLUTION AND CRISIS
In 1880, the country experienced one of its worst rice shortages because of milling inadequacies. Responding to this acute situation, Smith Bell also operated its own fleet of lighters and inter-island steamers, the company was able to distribute rice to the southern provinces. Aside from the rice shortage, the company also had to cope with the sugar shortage crisis. Smith Bell established the Luzon Sugar Company, the first sugar refinery in the islands located a few miles north of Manila.
THE AMERICAN ERA
Coinciding with the extension of free trade between the United States and the Philippines, Smith Bell was incorporated into a domestic liability corporation in 1909. The War in Europe from 1914 to 1918 gave Smith Bell a chance to achieve maximum prosperity as products such as copra, hemp and sugar were in great demand and the islands imported more manufactured goods.
After the War, the company went back into operations and the immediate reconstruction of its warehouses. With the support of banks, Smith Bell began to import once again building materials such as steel and other types of construction materials. The main nucleus of Smith Bell’s staff started to re-open its services along the lines of insurance, trading, import and export, and shipping. The Red V Coconut products were rehabilitated, and by 1945, the company found itself managing the Domestic Insurance Company of the Philippines.
Smith Bell also diversified into printing as it established the Philippine Business Forms, which was involved in packing, and printing of cartons and labels. It acquired the C.M. Lovsted & Co., which was involved in the trading of a wide range of industrial products and equipment.