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, and photographs.
The collection is divided into four series. In most instances, original folder titles were retained. In circumstances where there was no folder title, the processing archivist created one derived from the nature of the materials. The contents of some folders were combined.
Series 1: Products, 1946-1948
Series 2: Advertising, 1902-1984
Series 3: Sales and Marketing, 1881-1979
Series 4: Corporate, 1896-1993
Sterling Drug was founded in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1901 by two childhood friends, William E. Weiss and Albert H. Diebold, 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 this would be best obtained by acquisition. This policy continued throughout the life of the organization. At least 130 companies were acquired directly or indirectly between 1902 and 1986.
In 1913, Weiss and Diebold established intangible assets (trademarks, patents, and copyrights) and tangible assets (offices and plants). By 1914, the company set-up proprietary agencies for overseas trading. Weiss and Diebold changed the name of the company in 1917 from Neuralgyline, which was difficult to say, to Sterling Products.
Sterling Products benefited from World War I. Because supplies of drugs from Germany were cutoff by the Allied blockade, they established the Winthrop Company to manufacture the active ingredients. After the war, Sterling acquired the American Bayer Company in December 1918. 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 syphilis; 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. By 1942, the use of Sterling Products as a name was confusing and could not be licensed to conduct business in some states. Therefore, the company namechanged to Sterling Drug, Inc.
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 disposed of its health-related businesses. This left Sterling broken up with Sanofi purchasing Sterling's ethical business; Nycomed of Norway purchasing the diagnostic imaging; and SmithKline Beecham purchasing the worldwide over-the counter pharmaceutical business.
Collins, Joseph C. and John R. Gwilt. "The Life Cycle of Sterling Drug, Inc." Bulletin for the History of Chemistry, Volume 25, Number 1, 2000.
Materials at the Archives Center, National Museum of American History
NW Ayer and Sons Incorporated Advertising Agency Records (AC0059)
Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Series: Patent Medicines (NMAH.AC.0060)
Parke-Davis Company Records (NMAH.AC.0001)
Norwich Eaton Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Records (NMAH.AC.0329)
Syntex Collection of Pharmaceutical Advertisements (NMAH.AC.0821)
Garfield & Company Records (NMAH.AC.0820)
Materials at the National Museum of American History
Smithsonian Libraries Trade Literature Collection
Division of Medicine and Science holds artifacts related to Sterling Drug, Inc. that include a banner, flag, product packaging, memorabilia, a colander, and a soap dispenser. See accessions 2001.0314, 2004.0129, and 2018.5001.
Collection donated to the Archives Center by the History Factory through Bruce Weindruch (President and CEO), in 2001.
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-633-3270.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.