William H. Erhart
Chairman of the Board
(1929 – 1940)
The son of Charles and Fanny Pfizer Erhart, William Erhart grew up in Brooklyn. He joined Pfizer in 1889, and upon its incorporation in 1900, became the Company's first vice president. His chief responsibility was overseeing production at the Brooklyn plant, which converted from steam power to electricity in 1914.
Named a director in 1900, Erhart assumed the duties of Chairman in 1929, the year the Great Depression began. That year, Pfizer became the first company in the world to mass- produce gluconic acid, a chelating agent used by the pharmaceutical, food and beverage, and textile industries.
In 1936, Pfizer, now a world leader in the field of fermentation chemistry, started the commercial production of vitamin C using technology learned in the manufacture of gluconic and citric acid. Erhart remained chairman of the Company until his death in July 1940. His estate included 25,200 shares of Pfizer stock, which were sold back to Pfizer for $1.3 million.