Wm. S. Merrell



The company traces its roots back to 1828 when William S. Merrell opened the Western Market Drug Store at Sixth Street and Western Row (now Central Avenue) in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Merrell expanded into the wholesale drug business. Following his death in 1880 his sons formed the William S. Merrell Chemical Company.

In the 1930s it merged with a company started by Lunsford Richardson to become Richardson-Merrell. Richardson's most notable product was Vicks VapoRub (named in honor of his brother-in-law Dr. Joshua Vick, a Selma, North Carolina physcian.


One of Richardson-Merrell's best-known incidents revolved around its efforts to introduce thalidomide into the US market in the 1950s and 1960s under the brand name "Kevadon". The drug was highly popular in Europe as a sedative and antiemetic for elderly patients. Although not tested nor approved for use during pregnancy, the effectiveness and absence of significant side-effects led many physicians to prescribe to pregnant women. Richardson-Merrell submitted their new drug application (NDA) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June, 1960. During the application process, Richardson-Merrell heavily lobbied the FDA for quick approval of the drug, and distributed 2.5 million tablets of thalidomide to 1,200 American doctors with the understanding that the drug was under "investigation", a preemptive marketing loophole that was not then prohibited by existing regulations. Nearly 20,000 patients received the tablets. Reviewing pharmacologist Frances Oldham Kelsey, who had joined the FDA just a month before the application's arrival, repeatedly denied the company's requests for permission to market the drug, citing an insufficient number of controlled studies to establish risks. When studies revealed that 10,000 children worldwide had been born with severe birth defects from the drug, Merrell withdrew its application and scrambled to recover any remaining unconsumed tablets from doctors offices around the country. Ultimately, 17 children in the United States were born with the defects. For correctly denying the application despite the pressure from Richardson-Merrell, Kelsey eventually received the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service at a 1962 ceremony with President John F. Kennedy.

Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals

Dow Chemical acquired controlling interest of the Richardson-Merrell company in 1980 and the company became Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals. The Vicks brand (along with the Richardson name) was spun off to Procter & Gamble.

For more, see full entry at Marion Merrell Dow

Lloyd Brothers/Wm. S. Merrell Historical Sketch

The firm of Lloyd Brothers, Pharmacists Inc., began in 1845 when William S. Merrell opened a drug store in the corner room of a building located at Court and Plum Streets. In 1852, the name of the pharmacy was changed to William S. Merrell & Co. Another change came in 1861, with the addition of T.C. Thorp. In 1862, Wm. S. Merrell's part was purchased by H.M. Merrell, and the name was changed to H.M. Merrell & Co. Abner Thorp was added as a partner in 1869. In 1877, John Uri Lloyd bought the share of T.C. Thorp, and the name of the firm became Merrell, Thorp & Lloyd. At this point, the pharmacy began to concentrate on the manufacturing of drugs and less on retailing. In 1881, Nelson Ashley Lloyd, John Uri's younger brother, replaced H.M. Merrell, and the company's name was again changed, to Thorp & Lloyd Brothers. The final major name change occurred in 1886, when the youngest Lloyd brother, Curtis Gates Lloyd, joined the firm replacing Abner Thorp, and Lloyd Brothers was born. The name and copartnership remained until 1924, when the company was incorporated as Lloyd Brothers, Pharmacists Inc.

The growth of the company can be directly linked to the decision by John Uri Lloyd to ally himself with the Eclectic physicians, and his agreement with doctors John King and John Milton Scudder to undertake the production of the medicinals that would comprise an American materia
medica. In this respect he was extemely effective, and by the 1880's the Lloyd Brothers drugs, under the name Specific Medicines [licensed from John M. Scudder] were leaders in the field.

By the 1900's, the firm had cornered the "ethical drug" market, and was not only the primary supplier of drugs to Eclectic physicians, but was a major supplier of drugs to the regular (or Allopathic) and Homeopathic physicians. The goal of the company as stated by John Uri Lloyd was to produce botanical drugs of standard quality and strength, using the most precise and exacting standards of manufacture. The growth of the company, however, was primarily due to the brilliant chemical and pharmaceutical research of John Uri Lloyd. He not only developed new medicinals, but invented the apparatus necessary for their manufacture. As a result the firm led in the manufacture of botanicals in general, and had exclusive patent on many new drugs. The cold still, an absolute necessity in current pharmaceutical research and development, was patented by John Uri Lloyd, and its use by Lloyd Brothers allowed the company a huge advantage over its competition.

The company thrived until John Uri Lloyd's death in 1936. The deaths of Nelson Ashley in 1925 and Curtis Gates in 1926 had certainly been a loss to the company, but it was from John Uri that the company had always taken its' direction. With his death in 1936, his will called for the sale of the firm within five years. Although contested by John Thomas Lloyd [J.U.L.'s son] and Thomas Rouse, an executor, Lloyd Brothers, Pharmacists Inc. was purchased by S.B. Pennick in 1938. In 1948, a local management consortium purchased Lloyd Brothers stock. The group was headed by Robert H. Woodward, later a vice-president of Wm. S. Merrell & Co., and John Dietrich, a treasurer of Hoechst Pharmaceuticals. In 1958, new financial interests, headed by Richard Lockton, acquired control of the firm.

The company was then sold in 1960 to Intercontinental Chemical Corporation, a holding company for Farbwerke Hoechst, the German chemical giant. In 1967 the name of the company was changed from Lloyd Brothers, Pharmacists Inc. to Hoechst Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and in 1968 to become a division of American Hoechst Corporation. In 1969, the parent company consolidated its divisions in New Jersey, and the last link to the Cincinnati area was broken.

Excerpt from Lloyd Library Archives

Image from Biographies, William S. Merrell

William S. Merrell.jpeg