Lehman Brothers Collection - Contemporary Business Archives

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Lehman Brothers Collection

Twentieth-Century Business Archives

Merck & Co., Inc. - Lehman Brothers Collection

Merck & Co., Inc.

List of Deals

Merck & Company's beginnings can be traced back to Freidrich Jacob Merck's purchase, in 1668, of an apothecary in Darmstadt, Germany. This store remained in the Merck family for generations. In 1827 Heinrich Emmanuel Merck began manufacturing drugs. His first product was morphine. In 1899 George Merck, Heinrich's grandson, established a business in the United States, and opened a plant with his partner, Theodore Weicker. The manufacturing of drugs and chemicals at this site began in 1903. The year 1899 also marked the first publication of the "Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy."

During World War I George Merck, fearing anti-German sentiment, turned over a sizable portion of Merck stock to the Alien Property Custodian of the United States. This portion represented the company interest held by Merck's German cousins. At the end of the war, Merck was rewarded for his patriotic leadership; the Alien Property Custodian sold Merck shares, worth $3 million, to the public. George Merck retained control of the corporation, and by 1919 the company was entirely public owned.

Merck merged with Powers-Weightman-Rosengarten, a producer of antimalarial quinine, in 1927. In 1933 the company established a large laboratory and recruited prominent chemists and biologists to produce new pharmaceutical products. Merck scientists discovered vitamin B12 during this decade. In the early 1940s a Merck chemist synthesized cortisone from ox bile, which led to the discovery of cortisone's anti-inflammation properties. In 1943 streptomycin, a revolutionary antibiotic used for tuberculosis and other infections, was isolated by a Merck scientist. Five Merck scientists received Nobel Prizes in the 1940s and 1950s. Despite these advances, the company struggled during the postwar years, until the mid-1950s.

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