Tooth and Co was founded in 1835 and went through various changes of ownership within the Tooth family until 1857. In that year James Sutherland Mitchell, who had been the manager of the business, became the first non-family shareholder.
James Sutherland Mitchell became a weathly man as a result of his shareholding in Tooth and Co, and his granddaughter Mary Elizabeth Mitchell Wylde married Harold Ozanne in 1909.
Tooth and Co operated from the Kent Brewery in Sydney and was the major brewer of beer in New South Wales for 150 years. But during the early years much of the profit from this successful business came from importing wines, spirits and beer, as colonial beer was not widely drunk until the 1880s.
The tied house system was a huge advantage to Tooth’s Kent Brewery. This was an arrangement where a brewery lent capital to publicans to establish their hotel or pub, provided that the hotel was stocked exclusively by the brewery. Such an investment guaranteed beer sales and was a key element in Tooth and Co attaining a large market share in New South Wales.
Tooth and Co was one of Australia’s oldest and largest companies with share capital of £900,000 when it went public in 1888. It was listed on the Sydney Stock Exchange in July 1961. In addition to the huge Kent Brewery site Tooth owned numerous pubs and considerable land and for a period it also owned Penfolds Wines.
In 1981, a controlling interest in Tooth and Co. Ltd was acquired by the Adelaide Steamship Company (a corporate raider and asset stripper.) The Adelaide Steamship Company's acquisitions were funded by huge borrowings, and the AdSteam Group had high debt levels (gearing). With the onset of the recession of the early 1990s, interest rates rose. Under the pressure of its debt, AdSteam was forced to liquidate all tangible assets, although its bankers had agreed to an orderly sale.
Tooth as a listed company, had to publish an annual report and each year Residual Assco, DJL, and Tooth went through the formality of an Annual General Meeting. The meeting in regard to the three worthless companies took about twenty minutes. The minutes of the meeting were presented in a plain form, in a manner suggesting three witches about a cauldron in a darkened room. On this basis, analysts and the press named the companies the three ugly sisters. Tooth and Co. was delisted from the ASX in 2010.
In early 2005 the massive Kent Brewery was closed with the site undergoing redevelopment into housing, with the exception of a heritage chimney and a gate. The gate still bears the trademark of Invicta the rampant stallion. The remaining red-brick facade is the last reminder of one of Australia's first companies - a factory so big it was described as a "city within a city".
Tooth established and maintained a comprehensive brewing museum at its Kent Brewery. The contents of the museum have since been donated to the Powerhouse Museum, located in Harris Street Ultimo. Part of the contents are now on permanent display at the Powerhouse Museum.
A feature of Tooth and Co. was the painting of large pub paintings in the 1930s and 1940s, unique to NSW. These pub paintings sought to advertise beer by associating it with sport, health and cultural sophistication. Tooth and Co. owned hundreds of pubs throughout NSW at the time and sought to decorate many with these paintings. Many of these have now disappeared from pub walls and are highly sought as souvenirs of the era.
The original Tooth and Co produced many beers, of which only two remain on the market - KB Lager and Kent Old Brown. KB Lager - named after the 'Kent Brewery', once one of the most popular beers in NSW is now produced in small amounts by Carlton & United. It has recently been popularised amongst the younger demographic by the fictional beer-swilling Rugby League Legend Reg Reagan as his beer of choice.