Smith, Kline & French Co.

Digger Odell Publications © 2007


The history of the Smith, Kline & French Co., of Philadelphia, and its immediate predecessors extends back to 1844. a period oŁ sixty-four years. end the growth of the concern has been such as to make it worthy of being included in the illustrations of the wonderful growth and changes in the wholesale drug business during the last half century.

Smith & Shoemaker succeeded the firm of George K. Smith & Co., in 1863. Their business was conducted at 243 North Third street, and at that time amounted to less than $ioo,ooo per annum. M. N. Kline, the present president of the Smith, Kline & French Co., became connected with Smith & Shoemaker in 1865. The business grew rapidly and the firm name was changed to Smith, Kline & Co., in j868. It was later moved from 243 North Third street to 309-311 North Third street. Those quarters became entirely inadequate to take care of the increasing business, and a building was erected by Henry C. Lea on Arch street. below Fifth (429 to 435 Arch street) to which the business was moved in 1887. These premises again becoming inadequate to take care of the largely increased business, properties on Fifth street were purchased in the summer of 1907, and a six-story addition, 6o by go feet, is being erected and will be ready for occupancy by March. 1908.

The concern was incorporated in 1888, and on January 1, 1891, after the business of French. Richards & Co. founded in 1844. had been wound up, Harry B. French associated himself with the corporation and was elected its vice-president, and the name was changed to Smith, Kline & French Co. The growth, which had been steady and continuous during the twenty years preceding, now became still more marked until to-day the concern ranks, and has for some years ranked, among the first as to volume of business among the wholesale drug houses of the United States.

Perhaps the most marked characteristic of the policy which led to the growth in the business in the early days of its history was the fact that prompt deliveries, i.e.. the filling of all orders received in the morning upon the same day, was inaugurated, in which respect this concern was the pioneer among the jobbing drug houses in the eastern section of this country.

Later on the fact was recognized that a house supplying the wants of the retail druggist, to be prepared through ample stock and facilities for the prompt and proper filling of orders, must not only handle goods manufactured by others. but must be prepared to furnish a large proportion of the druggists' wants direct from the manufacturer, or, in other words, must become a manufacturer as well as a dealer. Therefore, many years ago, a laboratory was established at 305 to 309 Cherry street. which later on was moved to Canal and Poplar streets where the laboratory covers a space of 241 by 156 feet, every inch of which is now occupied with machinery and appliances for the production of specialties, and the manufacture of a line of medicinal chemicals and a full line of pharmaceuticals, and where, in their assay department, every drug or medicinal article purchased by the firm is carefully examined, crude drugs being ground or powdered on the premises, so that the retail druggist, long before the national pure food and drugs law was passed, could confidently reply upon getting articles of assayed and of known strength and value if brought to him under the label of the Smith. Kline & French Co.

Among the more important medicinal chemicals manufactured by them are bismuth preparations, iron salts and iodine salts. Among their specialties are concentrated liquors for conveniently preparing medicinal syrups and medicinal elixirs, which have been extensively used by druggists all over this country for many years. Their concentrated nitrous ether tubes for the convenient preparation of spirit of nitrous ether have been adopted, and are being used by many of the progressive pharmacists in this and other countries who appreciate the advantage of making up spirit of nitrous ether in small quantities, thus saving themselves the loss which they heretofore incurred by reason of its rapid detorioration when made up in a large quantity.

One of the departments added comparatively recently, but which has become a very important one, is the sponge department. Having special connections with the agents for Mediterranean sponges in London, the firm is to-day supplying more druggists who handle a high grade of sponges in the larger cities than any other firm in the country. The Elma Candy department, the cigar department, and the perfumery department are worthy of mention.

In addition to the regular line of medicinal chemicals and pharmaceuticals, they became interested ten years ago in the formula for an Infant Food which, after thorough investigation and test by a number of prominent physicians in Philadelphia, was found to be a milk modifier superior to any other food then on the market, and was taken hold of and exploited in a way characteristic of the house, which resulted in building up a demand for Eskay's Food in every section of the United States.

Since the passage of the pure food and drugs law a number of additional chemists have been employed. and the assay department has been enlarged and more thoroughly equipped, and every article going to the retail dealer bears the firm's guarantee. It is believed that the houses equipped in this manner will receive to a greater degree than ever before the patronage of those retail druggists who are more interested in the quality of the goods coming to them than the price at which they can procure them.

The managers of the corporation have been actively identified in every movement that has been made for the betterment of the drug business, and the policy of the house has been such as to exert an influence, not only upon the wholesale and retail trade of the city and state in which business is conducted, but upon the country at large. It might be said in addition, that Mr. Kline, the head of the house, is a man of incessant activities, who has taken a strong interest not only in things pharmaceutical, but also in those pertaining to civic and national life.

*The firm was the first manufacturer of sugar-coated pills on a large scale, in which at one time it did a large business.

1908 Pharmaceutical Era