Bergen Brunswig Corporation is the nation's largest supplier of pharmaceuticals to the managed care market and the second largest wholesaler to the retail pharmacy market. In addition, Bergen Brunswig is the only pharmaceutical distributor that also supplies medical and surgical products on a national basis. Since its incorporation in 1969, it has been on the leading edge of technological advances in electronic data interchange (EDI).
Lucien Napoleon Brunswig, the founder of Bergen Brunswig, was born in 1854 in France. He opened a retail drug store in Atchison, Kansas, when he was 21 years old. His drugstore was such a success that he sold it profitably and took the train as far southwest as it would go, to a few miles outside of Fort Worth, Texas, then a small, dusty town of a few hundred people.
Brunswig's Fort Worth drugstore, serving both retail and wholesale, flourished. In 1882, George R. Finlay, the owner of a well established wholesale drug firm in New Orleans, invited Brunswig to join him as a partner. Lucien Brunswig readily agreed to sell his own drug business and become Finlay's business partner in New Orleans. Finlay's firm, Wheelock-Finlay, became Finlay and Brunswig. Upon Finlay's death in 1885, Lucien Brunswig took over the entire wholesale drug operation and settled into New Orleans, where he served as a police commissioner of the city for four years. In 1887 Brunswig took on a partner, F.W. Braun.
The following year, Brunswig became interested in expanding West, setting his sights on faraway Los Angeles, California, a growing town of 30,000. Brunswig dispatched Braun to Los Angeles to open one of the few wholesale drug companies in the area, the F.W. Braun Company. Business opened in Los Angeles on the first floor of a two-story adobe house. Pharmaceuticals were not only sold over the counter, but a few salesmen also ventured out to visit druggists and procure their orders, which could be filled within two or three weeks. After a year, F.W. Braun Company was flourishing and moved into the Old Post Office Building next-door, the first of a series of major expansions.
In 1903, deciding that the future of his company lay in the West, Brunswig sold his profitable New Orleans establishment and moved with his family to Los Angeles to preside over the continued expansion of his business. In 1907, he bought out Braun, and his business was renamed Brunswig Drug Company.
With headquarters in Los Angeles, the wholesale drug enterprise was soon expanded to include branches in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, as well as a short-lived store in Guaymas, Mexico. As a result of World War I, Pacific Coast business boomed, far beyond Brunswig's wildest dreams. In 1922 when other U.S. businesses were experiencing a slump, Brunswig's sale of drugs as well as cosmetics, a recent and lucrative addition to the drug line, reached a record high level.
A wealthy businessman, Lucien Brunswig had also become an ardent bibliophile, art collector, and philanthropist. In 1927 he presented to the University of California at Los Angeles more than 1,000 books for its library of French language and literature. Moreover, with the onset of the Great Depression, Brunswig's company opened soup kitchens to feed the desperately poor. Brunswig died in 1943, two years after his retirement.
Roy V. Schwab succeeded Lucien Brunswig as president of the Brunswig Drug Corporation, moving the company's headquarters in 1947 to Vernon, California. By then, the Brunswig Drug Corporation had divested itself of its manufacturing plant and laboratories, concentrating solely on the wholesale distribution of pharmaceuticals. In fact, Brunswig was considered the most advanced wholesale drug operation in the United States. It was, for example, the first wholesale drug company in the United States to introduce computerized punchcards for keeping track of inventories.
In 1949, the 61-year-old Brunswig Drug Corporation merged with the Coffin Redington Company of San Francisco, the first of numerous significant mergers. In 1952, it acquired the Smith-Faus Drug Company, and by 1960, it had 14 divisions in the southwestern United States.
In the eastern United States, another drug company benefited from the postwar economic boom. In 1947 Emil P. Martini founded and became the first president of the Bergen Drug Company based in Hackensack, New Jersey. A graduate of the New Jersey College of Pharmacy in 1923, Martini opened his first retail pharmacy in Hackensack five years later. A second pharmacy was acquired at the height of the Depression, and a third was acquired in 1937. A well-established member of the community and president of the New Jersey State Board of Pharmacy, Martini helped establish a wholesale drug distribution company in 1947 named after the county of Bergen in which they lived.
With the 1955 death of Emil P. Martini, Sr., leadership of the company was turned over to Martini's son, Emil P. Martini Jr. The Bergen Drug Company then began rapidly expanding and acquiring other wholesale drug companies. In 1956, Bergen acquired Drug Service Inc. of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Between 1957 and 1958, Bergen operations were started in three California cities, Fresno, San Francisco, and Covina. In 1959, it became the first company in the nation to use computers for inventory control and accounting purposes. By the 1960s, Bergen Drug Company was among the largest wholesale drug distributors in the United States, supplying 5,000 pharmacists and hospitals.
In May 1969 Martini successfully negotiated the purchase of Brunswig Drug Corporation. The latter had sought to buy the former until Brunswig Drug managers realized that financially it made more sense to have Bergen buy their company, as the price-earnings figures of Bergen's stocks were more advantageous. The name of the new company would be the Bergen Brunswig Corporation.
Several acquisitions followed. In 1970 alone, the Bergen Brunswig Corporation added 12 drug companies and laboratories to its fold, transforming itself into a truly national drug distribution business. Bergen Brunswig revolutionized the trade in 1971 when it pioneered the electronic transmission of purchase orders to Eli Lilly & Co. In the early 1970s, Bergen Brunswig introduced the handheld computer scanner, with which pharmacists could scan the barcodes on merchandise. Stock was then reordered on the basis of the information collected by the scanner. The inauguration in the late 1970s of an advanced computer system automated the prescription department still further, connecting hospitals and chain pharmacies electronically to Bergen Brunswig's distribution centers. Soon the majority of orders could be transmitted to Bergen Brunswig via telephone lines, and in the 1980s, satellite communication replaced conventional telephone lines.
In the 1980’s, Bergen Brunswig developed an automated distribution system that monitored the customer's stocks and automatically replenished supplies.
The 1980s also saw the development of another line of products, which resulted from Bergen Brunswig's acquisition in 1982 of Commtron, Inc., a national distributor of home videos as well as 4,000 consumer electronic products. By 1990 Commtron, a 79 percent owned subsidiary of the Bergen Brunswig Corporation, became the nation's number-one distributor of videos, with distribution centers and headquarters in Des Moines, Salt Lake City, and Chicago.
Close Up of Vignette:
Class A Common Stock, specimen, late 1900’sPrinter: American Bank Note Company Dimensions:
8” (h) x 12” (w)State: NJ-New Jersey
| CA-California Subject Matter: Pharmaceutical Companies
| Specimen Pieces Vignette Topic(s): Allegorical Featured
| Allegorical Truth
| Atom Featured Condition:
No fold lines, punch hole cancels in signature areas and body, very crisp.