Charles Erhart

Charles Erhart

Pfizer Cofounder

Charles Erhart, like his cousin, Charles Pfizer, was born in Ludwigburg, Germany. Three years older than his cousin, Erhart had mastered the confectioner's trade in his native town, and their skills blended well for the new business they founded together in Brooklyn, New York, in 1849. Chas. Pfizer & Co. produced fine chemicals, specializing in the compounding of chemicals not commonly made in America.

The words "Pfizer Quality" were more than a company slogan. Awards came early to the extraordinarily conscientious and hardworking partners—from the American Institute in 1867 and the Centennial Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia—whose first product, santonin, neatly combined the skill of Erhart, the confectioner, with that of his cousin, the chemist. The medicine, shaped like a candy cone, blended the bitter santonin with a sugar-cream confection to make it palatable.

Erhart maintained close ties with Germany, returning to his homeland both for social and business reasons. During one trip, Erhart proposed to his cousin Charles' sister Fanny, whom he married in New York in 1856. This union further strengthened the familial ties of the growing business partnership. Erhart's scientific and technical skills were instrumental in bringing about an expanded line of chemicals and a much larger manufacturing plant.

The Company's extensive connections in Europe enabled it to branch out into production of food-processing ingredients. In 1863, Erhart and Pfizer began importing crude argols — the tartar deposits formed in wine casks during the aging process—from France and Italy and set up their own refining operation for the manufacture of tartar and tartaric acid, which was used by bakers, beverage manufacturers, and in cooking. Sales began to climb, and by 1871, revenues of the young company were about $1.4 million.

Erhart died in 1891, at the age of 70, having served his prospering enterprise, now a leader in the chemical trade, for 42 years.