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Ayer, James Cook (05 May 1818–03 July 1878), proprietary medicine manufacturer and entrepreneur, was born in Ledyard, Connecticut, the son of Frederick Ayer, a mill operator, and Persis Cook. His father, who ran water-driven sawmills, gristmills, and woolen mills as well as a blacksmith and wheelwright’s shop, died when Ayer was seven. His mother and the children lived for two years with her father in Preston, Connecticut. Ayer spent a winter with his nearby paternal grandfather while attending school; he then returned to Preston and stayed for three years, working long hours at various tasks in a carding mill—eventually under a four-cents-an-hour contract. He insisted on further education and at age twelve was sent to a school in Norwich for six months, after which he clerked for a year for a country merchant....

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Albert C. Barnes Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1940. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 102 P&P).

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Barnes, Albert Coombs (02 January 1872–24 July 1951), collector, educator, and entrepreneur, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Jesse Barnes, a butcher, and Lydia A. Schafer. Barnes’s father lost his right arm in the Civil War, and his ability to support his family proved sporadic. However, Albert’s mother, to whom he was devoted, was hardworking and resourceful. Among his most vivid childhood memories were the exuberant black religious revivals and camp meetings he attended with his devout Methodist parents. Accepted at the academically demanding Central High School, which awarded bachelor’s degrees, his early interest in art was stimulated by his friendship with the future artist ...

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Brandreth, Benjamin (09 January 1807–19 February 1880), proprietary medicine manufacturer and eclectic physician, was born in Leeds, England, where his father was a merchant. In the mid-eighteenth century, his physician grandfather, William Brandreth of Liverpool, had concocted and sold a Vegetable Universal Pill. Inheriting the formula, Brandreth marketed the pill in 1828. In 1829 he married Harriet Matilda Smallpage; they had five children. In 1835, sensing a larger pill market in the United States, the family migrated to New York City, where his wife died the following year....

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Cesar (1682–?), South Carolina slave and medical practitioner who developed primitive pharmaceuticals, was born possibly in Africa or the Caribbean and transported to the southern colonies as a slave, or perhaps he was born into slavery in South Carolina. (His name is often spelled Caesar.) His parents are unknown; he may have been the descendant of skilled medicine men, who transferred medical knowledge from their native cultures to the colonies, sharing drug recipes and folk remedies that used herbs and roots, or of slave midwives, who had performed Caesarian sections in Africa and taught other slaves that procedure....

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Childs, Richard Spencer (24 May 1882–26 September 1978), business executive and political reformer, was born in Manchester, Connecticut, the son of William Hamlin Childs and Nellie White Spencer. His father founded the Bon Ami Company and, together with his other business ventures, became one of the wealthiest men in Brooklyn, New York, where the family moved in 1892. Richard Childs attended Yale University from 1900 to 1904 and earned a B.A. In 1904 he joined the advertising agency of Alfred William Erickson; eventually becoming a junior partner, he remained with the firm until 1918. He married Grace Pauline Hatch in 1912. They had four children (their firstborn died a day after birth). From 1919 to 1920 Childs was manager of the Bon Ami Company, and from 1921 to 1928 he was head of the drug specialties division of the A. E. Chew Company, a New York exporter. Childs worked for the American Cyanamid Company from 1928 to 1947 and headed its Lederle Laboratories division from 1935 to 1944....

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Hartman, Samuel Brubaker (01 April 1830–30 January 1918), physician and proprietary medicine manufacturer, was born near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the son of Christian Hartman and Nancy Brubaker, farmers and immigrants from Switzerland. His father died when Hartman was six months old, and the boy had a peripatetic youth. Speaking only German until the age of fourteen, Hartman learned woodchopping from an uncle, then carpentry while living with a brother in Medway, Ohio. At twenty he taught school for a year in Pennsylvania, then toured the countryside selling German-English Bibles....

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Johnson, Robert Wood (04 April 1893–30 January 1968), pharmaceutical manufacturer and philanthropist, was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the son of Robert Wood Johnson and Evangeline Armstrong Johnson. A decade before Johnson's birth, his father, a small-town druggist from New England, had joined with his brothers to found Johnson & Johnson (J&J), the surgical dressings company headquartered in New Brunswick, and had become its first president. Growing up in a well-to-do household, young Johnson was privately tutored and also attended Lawrenceville School prior to enrolling at Rutgers Preparatory School for his secondary education. The elder Robert Wood Johnson died during his son's senior year, and upon graduation the younger Johnson decided to forgo college and enter the family business....

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Kiss, Max (09 November 1882–22 June 1967), pharmacist and businessman, was born in Kisvárda, Hungary, the son of Illes Kiss, a lumber merchant, and Regina Schwartz. In 1897, after finishing high school, Kiss left home and came to the United States via Hamburg, Germany. In later years he would recount that he had heard from a cousin that “everyone in America shoveled gold right from the streets,” and Kiss wanted to shovel....

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Koch, William Frederick (06 April 1885–09 December 1967), physician and discoverer and promoter of new medications alleged to cure cancer and other diseases, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of German immigrants Martin Koch and Christina Faulstich. Koch attended the University of Michigan, receiving an A.B. in premedical studies (1909), an M.A. (1910), and a Ph.D. in biochemistry (1916). He served from 1910 to 1913 as assistant in physiology and instructor in histology at the Michigan Medical School and from 1914 to 1919 as professor of physiology at the Detroit College of Medicine and Surgery (later part of Wayne State University), from which he received an M.D. in 1918. Koch married Luella Schmidt in 1916; the couple had four children....

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Lilly, Eli (08 July 1838–06 June 1898), pharmaceutical manufacturer, was born the eldest of eleven children on a family-owned plantation in Baltimore County, Maryland, to Gustavus Lilly, a carpenter and building contractor, and Esther Elizabeth Kirby Lilly. He was named after his paternal grandfather. His father's family was descended from Swedish immigrants named Lillja who had come to Maryland in the eighteenth century. When Eli Lilly was an infant, the family moved west to Lexington, Kentucky, and lived there for more than a decade. In the spring of 1852 they moved north to Greencastle, Indiana, establishing themselves quickly in their new community as prominent citizens and staunch Methodists. After being educated at local schools, young Eli began working as a printer's devil for a local newspaper....

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Lilly, Josiah Kirby (18 November 1861–08 February 1948), pharmaceutical manufacturer, was born in Greencastle, Indiana, the son of Eli Lilly, a soldier, and Emily Lemon. Born at the beginning of the Civil War, Lilly spent his early years with his grandparents in Greencastle while his father served as a colonel with the Union army’s Ninth Indiana Cavalry. Following the war’s end, Lilly’s father relocated the family to Mississippi and attempted to raise cotton. The experiment ended in disaster; Lilly’s mother died and both father and son contracted malaria. Lilly’s father returned with his son to Indiana in 1866 but three years later moved to Paris, Illinois, where he entered the retail drug business. Josiah Lilly enrolled in the preparatory department at nearby Asbury College (now Depauw University) in 1875. He dropped out the following year to join his father’s newest endeavor, a drug manufacturing firm in Indianapolis that established the family fortune....

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Lloyd, John Uri (19 April 1849–09 April 1936), pharmacist and author, was born in West Bloomfield, New York, the son of Nelson Marvin Lloyd, an engineer, and Sophia Webster, a schoolteacher. The eldest of three sons who would become leading manufacturers of botanical medicines, Lloyd left the Genesee Valley with his parents when he was only four to settle in northern Kentucky. In this rustic environment he evinced an early interest in the flora around him and developed the habit of surreptitiously borrowing his mother’s kitchenware to fashion crude but instructive experiments with natural products....

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Merck, George Wilhelm (29 March 1894–09 November 1957), pharmaceutical manufacturer, was born in New York City, the son of George Merck, a and Friedrike Schenck. His early education took place at the Newark and Morristown academies, both in New Jersey. He then attended Harvard University, graduating with an A.B. in 1915. After graduation, he went to work at his father’s pharmaceutical firm, Merck & Co. By working in a wide variety of capacities, Merck learned the business thoroughly. In 1917 he married Josephine Carey Wall; they had two children....

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Perkins, Elisha (16 January 1741–06 September 1799), physician and patent vendor, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Perkins, a physician, and Mary Bushnell. Perkins may have briefly attended Yale and studied medicine under his father. He set up practice in Plainfield, Connecticut, and in 1762 married Sarah Douglass; they had ten children. During the Revolution, he served as a regimental surgeon. Tall and muscular, Perkins possessed great energy, self-control, self-confidence, and a good bedside manner. In spite of his thriving practice, he was not able to earn enough from medicine to support his large family. To supplement his income, he engaged in the mule trade, boarded patients, and took in students from the local academy he had helped to establish. He was an incorporator of the Connecticut Medical Society (1792) and chairman of the Windham County Medical Society....

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Squibb, Edward Robinson (04 July 1819–25 October 1900), physician, chemist, and manufacturing pharmacist, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of James Robinson Squibb (occupation unknown) and Catherine Bonsall. After Squibb’s mother died in 1831, the family moved to Philadelphia. In 1837 Edward became a pharmacist’s apprentice. Five years later he entered Jefferson Medical College; he received his M.D. degree in 1845....