Bristol-Myers Company

Bristol-Myers Company
Item# 1067

Bristol-Myers Company
Bristol-Myers was originally founded in 1887 by two former fraternity brothers, William McLaren Bristol and John Ripley Myers. They each invested $5,000 in the Clinton Pharmaceutical Company--a failing drug manufacturer based in New York--and their small operation began selling medical preparations by horse and buggy to local doctors and dentists. For the first few years, the company struggled due to insufficient capital and the new owners' lack of understanding of how drugs were made. The firm relocated from Clinton to Syracuse, New York in 1889 to improve its shipping capability, and then moved again ten years later to Brooklyn, New York for easier access to its expanding base of customers in Pennsylvania and New England.

In 1898, the company's name was changed to Bristol, Myers Company. One year later, John Ripley Myers died. To help the company grow, the firm increased its sales force, referred to as 'detail men,' and began shifting its attention from physicians to wholesale and retail druggists, who were increasingly being recognized as primary suppliers of medication.

In 1900, the firm incorporated and again modified its name, replacing the comma between Bristol and Myers with a hyphen. The same year, Bristol-Myers Company made its first profit, and entered the market for specialty products. Sales of such Bristol-Myers items as Sal Hepatica (a laxative mineral salt) and Ipana toothpaste (the first such product to contain a disinfectant) grew rapidly between 1903 and 1905.

During the recession that followed World War I, the company discontinued its line of 'ethical,' or prescription, drugs to focus production instead on its two best-selling specialty products, as well as other toiletries, antiseptics, and cough syrups. It was then that Bristol-Myers also moved its offices to its present location in Manhattan. The shift in product focus was accompanied by a new emphasis on advertising directed toward consumers rather than doctors and dentists. Bristol-Myers sponsored a radio show featuring a group called the Ipana Troubadours, and introduced the slogan 'Ipana for the Smile of Beauty; Sal Hepatica for the Smile of Health.' In 1928, the company became a part of Drug, Inc., a large, newly formed holding company that produced proprietary drugs and other medications, while also operating a large retail chain. Bristol-Myers continued to grow and advertised heavily during the Great Depression, launching several new and successful consumer products. Other operations affiliated with Drug, Inc. did not fare nearly as well, however, and the holding company disbanded in 1933.

Upon the outbreak of World War II, Bristol-Myers again became a manufacturer of ethical pharmaceuticals. It mass produced penicillin for the Allied armed forces through its Bristol Laboratories subsidiary, which had previously been acquired under the name of Cheplin Laboratories. Bristol Laboratories' experience in the process of fermentation--which was required to make its primary product, acidophilus milk--was easily converted to the manufacture of the antibiotics. This led to the firm's formal re-entry into the ethical drug arena, and enabled it to take advantage of the growing demand for antibiotics after the war.

In 1957, Henry Bristol became chair of the board and was succeeded as president and chief executive officer by Fredric N. Schwartz, the former head of Bristol Laboratories. Assisted by Gavin K. MacBain, the company's treasurer (who later assumed the position of chairperson), Schwartz acquired several smaller, well-managed companies in growing industries. The new subsidiaries grew quickly with help from Bristol-Myers' research and marketing expertise. These acquisitions included Clairol, a maker of hair coloring products, purchased in 1959; Drackett, a household products manufacturer, acquired in 1965; and Mead Johnson, a producer of infant formula and children's vitamins, purchased in 1967. At the time of the acquisition, Clairol had already made marketing history as a result of the popular advertising campaign 'Does she or doesn't she? Hair color so natural only her hairdresser knows for sure!'

Certificate: Common Stock, issued in the 1970s

Printer: American Bank Note Company

Dimensions: 8 (h) x 12 (w)

State: DE-Delaware

Subject Matter: Drug Companies | Consumer Products

Vignette Topic(s): Allegorical Featured | Company Logo Featured

Condition: Vertical fold lines, punch hole cancels in signature areas and body, toning and edge faults from age.

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