A brief history of "THE UPJOHN COMPANY", including biographies
of its founder W. E. UPJOHN and other Upjohn family members
involved in the creation of a major pharmaceutical company.
THE BEGINNING: TALES OF PIONEERS AND "SADDLEBAG DOCTORS" From my viewpoint as a UK Upjohn genealogist, the story really starts with W. E. Upjohn's father,URIAH UPJOHN, (born 7 September 1808 in Rhymney, South Wales, UK), the "father"of the Upjohn medical "dynasty". He was brought up in Shaftesbury, Dorset, UK, the son of a Land Surveyor & Preacher and emigrated with his family to America c. 1830. He studied medicine soon after arriving in New York and became a doctor in 1834. After a year's apprenticeship in Brighton, NY, he set out with his brother William, also now a doctor, for the Michigan territory to practice medicine. They made their way from Lake Erie by steam ship, then overland on foot to Richland, where they purchased some land and built a log cabin. William later started his own practice in nearby Hastings, but Uriah remained in Richland for 20 years, making rounds of five counties on horseback to visit patients. At this time of basic "doctoring", his work would often have involved merely comforting the dying and dispensing much quinine, so badly needed in the malaria infested river areas and windowless log cabins of pioneer America! He married Maria Mills (born 1821 in Orangeville, New York), the daughter of an area pioneer, in 1837 and they had 12 children. Of the eleven children that survived, the oldest daughter (Helen Maria) and three of the four boys (Henry Uriah, William Erastus and James Townley) became medical doctors. Two of the Upjohn girls were the first female graduates of the University of Michigan, graduating from the School of Pharmacy. In 1930 Uriah joined the Anti slavery society in Albany and continued that interest in Richland, where he was nominated for Congress on the "Free soil" ticket in 1845 and again in 1852. On the latter occasion he withdrew in favour of his Whig opponent on condition that the opponent was openly opposed to slavery. He also became land supervisor for Richland, along with his brother William and helped form the Kalamazoo County Medical Society in 1848. He continued practicing medicine until 1856 when the family made several moves. In 1871 he returned to Kalamazoo and worked as a consultant to his son Henry! Uriah was a spare time botanist, geologist and astronomer - he died on the 23rd November 1896 in Kalamazoo and was buried in Mountain Home Cemetery, amongst a growing cluster of Upjohn graves! (Uriah's cousin, Richard Upjohn (born Shaftesbury, UK, 22 January, 1802) also emigrated to the US in 1838/39 and became a famous architect see eg: http://www.famousamericans.net/richardupjohn/ ) THE UPJOHN COMPANY FOUNDER: WILLIAM ERASTUS (W.E.) UPJOHN was the ninth child of Uriah and Maria, and was born on the 5th June 1853 in Richland Township, Michigan. William and his family grew up on a farm in Richland and this experience encouraged a practical and inventive bent amongst the Upjohn Boys. WE's brother Henry Uriah Upjohn (born 22 July 1843, later to become joint founder of the business), a doctor with a practice in Kalamazoo, was a part time inventor and he produced a knot-tyer for haybinding machines, a feed cutter, a cultivator and a shock-absorbing mounting for buggy shafts. A farm machinery company bought his knot-tyer patent for $1500. Following in the family tradition, W.E. studied medicine, graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1875 and joined his uncle (William Upjohn) in his medical practice in nearby Hastings, MI. W.E. met his future wife, Rachel Babcock, while working as a clerk in her fathers pharmacy. They married the day before Christmas in 1878 and produced 5 children. In 1880 WE started his own practice in Hastings and began working on a machine to improve the quality and manufacture of pills. THE UPJOHN PILL AND GRANULE COMPANY In his first few years of practicing rural medicine, W. E.'s interest slowly changed from that of a physician to working on an innovative, new pill making process. In 1883 he began producing pills in the attic of his home in Hastings and in 1885 he received a patent (no. 312,041) for his machine that produced "friable" pills, (ie those that easily crumble and dissolve). At the time most pills had hard coatings that often did not dissolve in the stomach - they simply passed straight through! Instead of forming them from paste, as was the usual method then, he built them up from "starter" particles in a revolving pan, by alternately spraying the starter particles with moistening agents and sifting powdered drugs onto them. This was to be a milestone in pharma-ceutical manufacturing because for the first time, using this new process, "friable"pills (whose dosage was also controllable) could be mass produced. Production soon moved from his attic to the upper floor of an abandoned Hastings feed mill. W.E., then aged 32, moved his family to Kalamazoo and together with his brothers, Henry, Frederick Lawrence and James Townley# established The Upjohn Pill and Granule Company late in 1885. Thay started in the basement of the Upjohn Block, a block of stores with apartments and offices above, which Dr. Henry had had put up near Burdick Street a few years before. The following year the new company had a building of its own on a site behind the Upjohn block (on Farmer's Alley) and by the end of 1886 it employed 12 people and manufactured 186 different "medicinal formulas", compounded from 56 different drugs: 30 botanicals, 20 chemicals, 5 alkaloids and 1 glucoside. The first year's sales were an impressive $50,000! Since the friable pill was capable of being crushed with the press of a thumb, an illustration of this (using WE's own thumb) became the companys trade-mark. Henry sadly died on 2nd January 1887 and in 1888 the company moved again, this time to Lovell Street, where it remained for over 100 years. It was to become Kalamazoo's largest employer for many years. Upjohn sales reached $132,500 in 1890. (#James Townley Upjohn later became a member of Michigan state house of representatives, 1925-28 and member of Michigan state senate 6th District; elected 1928, 1932) THE UPJOHN COMPANY In 1902 the name was shortened to "The Upjohn Company" and it was becoming very successful. However in 1909, after major disagreements and arguments between the 3 brothers, W.E. bought the other 2 out and took sole control of the Company. In 1920 W.E. turned over the daily operations of the Company to others, but he continued to maintain close control over the business until his death. In 1925, the year he established the Kalamazoo Foundation, he entered semi-retirement while his son (William) Harold Upjohn (born 28th January 1884), who joined the business in 1907, had risen to the post of general manager and then vice president. Tragedy struck again with the untimely death of Harold on 15th October 1928 and W.E. was forced to return to active management until a successor could be found. His nephew, Dr. Lawrence Northcote Upjohn* became his successor in 1932. W.E. AND THE COMMUNITY OF KALAMAZOO: W.E. was deeply involved in community affairs throughout his stewardship of the pharmaceutical company. In 1892 he was elected as a Kalamazoo city alderman and in the 1918-21 period became Kalamazoos first mayor under the citys commission-mayor form of government, which he had helped to institute. He also helped direct the construction of Bronson Hospital (1904) and several area churches (1926). His belief in the "happy use of leisure time" led him to donate land for Upjohn Park (1919), to help fund an "Art House" (1928) and a municipal golf course (1929) and to build the Civic Auditorium (1931). W.E. decided to devote himself to what he hoped would be the "most important thing I ever did" - solving local and national unemployment problems of the Depression. W.E. was very concerned with the prospect of having to lay off his own workers and the broader problem of the hardships of unemployment in the community. He created jobs for 100 people to farm 1200 acres of land he purchased in 1932 in nearby Richland. Shortly before his death he created the "W. E. Upjohn Unemployment Trustee Corporation" in an effort to give help to the unemployed. 13 years after his death the "W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research" was established to study methods to combat unemployment and alleviate the distress caused by that condition. Unfortunately the Richland farm program didn't last long. The Federal Government soon stepped in to help the jobless by implementing public work programmes and establishing an unemployment compensation scheme. The Institute that W.E. founded still exists to conduct research and inform policymakers on employment related issues and seeks innovative ways to address chronic unemployment problems http://www.upjohninst.org/. The death of WILLIAM ERASTUS UPJOHN of a heart attack at age 79 on October 18, 1932, at his beloved summer home Brook Lodge (where he had so enjoyed cultivating plants in his spare time), left the community in mourning. Called by many "Kalamazoo's First Citizen", flags flew at half-mast when the news was announced. All businesses and schools in the city closed for the hour of his funeral. The mayor of Kalamazoo spoke for the city when he proclaimed that "the community has suffered a loss that is irreparable." His influence was so profound that nearly 70 years after his death, he was named the "Person of the Century" by the Kalamazoo Gazette at the turn of the millenium. The company he founded continued to grow, eventually evolving into an international company. POST W.E. AND BEFORE THE COMPANY MERGED WITH PHARMACIA: *Dr. LAWRENCE NORTHCOTE UPJOHN (born 16th December 1873 in Kalamazoo),W.E.'s nephew, having risen from Vice Chairman to Chairman became President of the "Upjohn Company" in May 1930. Lawrence graduated from the University of Michigan in 1900 as an MD. Shortly afterwards he became professor of anatomy at Oklahoma University and was named the first medical school "Dean" there - his official title was "Head of the Premedical Department and Director of Physical Culture" of the University of Oklahoma medical school (today there is still a "Lawrence N. Upjohn" Chair in Medicine at Oklahoma University College of Medicine!). In 1904, aged 31, he joined the Upjohn Company, became manager of the New York Ofice in 1906 and in 1930 was named president, a position he held until 1953. By 1932 the Company had 1,186 employees. A keen astronomer (like his Grandfather, Uriah), Lawrence spent many hours searching the skies and had a large refractory telescope mounted on the concrete deck of his home! He was an active member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers and it has also come to light that in 1947 he was interested in the work of the "Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists" (from a letter to him from Albert Einstein , the Chairman of that committee). Lawrence Northcote Upjohn died on 2nd June 1967 at the ripe old age of 92! In 1951 A new 33 acre pharmaceutical production plant (then the nation's largest under one roof) was completed at 7000 Portage Road in Portage. The architects employed some basic Art Deco motifs at the stepped concrete and brick facade of the main entrance, including bronze borders, railings and doorframes and a panel of brick glass. A rounded overhang, also of bronze, projects over the stairs, and bold black ceramic sans-serif letters spell out the company name. Concrete bands highlight the long, low windows and the top edge of this brick structure. Lawrence's son, EVERETT GIFFORD UPJOHN, BS, MD, (born 1904 in Kalamazoo) spent most of his working life at the Upjohn Company and became President and Chairman after Lawrence retired in 1953. Everett's son, Dr. HAROLD LAWRENCE UPJOHN was the only one of Lawrence Northcote Upjohn's seven grandchildren who joined the family business, even though there were three other medical doctors besides him amongst them, who instead went into private practice. Dr. Lawrence Upjohn was a particular inspiration to Harold, who became a producer of new innovative products while he was V. P. of Clinical Rese. He developed many drug products for the company and made a large contribution in the terms of ethical products. Even though it was still considered a family owned company at that time, political battles still marched on and in 1958 the company shifted from private to public ownership. Upjohn Co. stock split 25-for-1 and family members sold 2.41 million shares (17% of the total) to the general public at $45 a piece. In 1959 Upjohn stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Sales soared from $1 billion in 1976 to $2 billion in 1985! RECENT EVENTS: At the time of the merger between Upjohn and Pharmacia AB of Sweden in November 1995, Upjohn had research, manufacturing, sales and distribution facilities in more than 200 worldwide locations and a total of 16,900 employees. With the merger, Pharmacia & Upjohn, Inc., was the worlds ninth largest pharmaceutical firm with more than 30,000 employees, sales totalling $7 billion and an annual research budget of more than $1 billion. The companys corporate management centre was moved initially to Sweden and later to London, with major research and manufacturing centres in the United States, Sweden, and Italy. In April 2000, Pharmacia & Upjohn completed a merger with Monsanto and Searle, creating a dynamic new competitor in the pharmaceutical industry under the name of "Pharmacia Corp." In 2002 Pfizer Inc. announced plans to buy Pharmacia and on April 16th 2003 they took over Pharmacia. Personal Note: For some time now I've been searching the Internet for a history of the "Upjohn Company"and never had any success! There are many mentions of the Company being swallowed up by modern household-name "giants" such as Pharmacia, Monsanto, Pfizer etc. and of drug names and law suits against the company when things went wrong. Unfortunately the humble beginnings of the "Upjohn Company" and the individuals involved in its creation appear to have been lost in the mists of time and the corporate global drug company culture. I've taken it upon myself to produce this page from information gleaned from numerous sources (with apologies as appropriate) in order to try and rectify the omission! I've done this not just because of my own Upjohn family connection (the "founder" William Erastus Upjohn was a 4th cousin, 4 times removed), but because the company he founded was a large and successful organisation that should have some background info on the Web! William Erastus Upjohn, was not just a clever inventor, innovator and entrepeneur, he was first and foremost a caring man who became a doctor of medicine and later a philanthropist and Civic leader. His record in all these fields speaks for itself and the more I find out about him, the prouder I am to be able list him as one of my distant cousins! John Bennett (Somerset, UK, August 2003) Email:email@example.com
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