Sterling Drug was founded in 1901 by William E. Weiss and Albert H. Diebold of Wheeling, West Viginia, to manufacture and sell a pain-relieving preparation called "Neuralgine". The company's original name was Neuralgyline. Within a few years, Weiss and Diebold realized that expansion required more product lines and that these would be best obtained by acquisition. This policy continued throughout the life of the organization. At least 130 companies were acquired between 1902 and 1986. Weiss and Diebold changed the name of the company in 1917 to Sterling Drug, Inc. Sterling Drug benefited from World War I. Because supplies of drugs from Germany were cut off by the Allied blockade, they set up the Winthrop Company to manufacture the active ingredients. After the war, Sterling acquired the American Bayer Company. They established a separate subsidiary, the Bayer Company, to market Bayer Aspirin. During the 1930s, Winthrop made Sterling a leader in the pharmaceutical field with such renowned products as Luminal, the original phenobarbitol; Salvarsan and Neo-Salvarsan, the first effective drugs in the treatment of syphillis; Prontosil, the first of the sulfa drugs; and Atabrine, the synthetic antimalarial that replaced quinine during World War II. The company expanded overseas in 1938, and eventually operated about seventy plants in about forty countries. Sterling was especially profitable in Latin America. In 1988, in order to avoid a hostile takeover by Hofmann-LaRoche, Sterling became a division of Eastman Kodak and remained one until 1994 when Kodak decided to dispose of its health-related businesses.
The collection contains domestic and foreign advertising for both pharmaceutical and consumer health care products; sales and marketing materials for pharmaceuticals aimed at physicians, such as brochures, package inserts, reports, catalogs, price lists, manuals; the company's business and administrative papers, including annual reports, news releases, clippings, newsletters and publications, financial and corporate files, histories, memorabilia, and photographs.
Sterling Drug, Inc. Records, 1867-1995, Archives Center, National Museum of American History