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.


{short description of image}   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/ )


W E Upjohn  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 father’s 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.
{short description of image}  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 company’s 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)   

Upjohn Co. 1933

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.

WE Marker
  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 Kalamazoo’s first mayor under the city’s 
  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). 

                   {short description of image}  

  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. 

{short description of image}


{short description of image} *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!

{short description of image}  
   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,{short description of image} (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! 

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 world’s 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 company’s 
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. 

{short description of image}

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:john@upjohn.org.uk

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