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Our Journey

Our Timeline 1849 - Present

We've come a long way. Journey through Pfizer's history from the first storefront to the beaches at Normandy to the New York Stock Exchange.

Timeline

1849

In 1849, cousins Charles Pfizer and Charles Erhart founded Charles Pfizer & Company in a red brick building in Brooklyn, NY.

Their first product is a palatable form of santonin — an antiparasitic used to treat intestinal worms, a common affliction in mid-19th century America. Combining their skills, Pfizer, a chemist, and Erhart, a confectioner, blend santonin with almond-toffee flavoring and shape it into a candy cone. The "new" santonin is an immediate success and the company is launched.

As demand for painkillers, preservatives, and disinfectants soars during the Civil War, Pfizer expands production of tartaric acid (used as a laxative and skin coolant) and cream of tartar (effective as both a diuretic and cleansing agent) as well as other vital drugs to help meet the needs of the Union Army. Among these are iodine, morphine, chloroform, camphor, and mercurials, which, in addition to medicinal applications, are used in the emerging field of photography, the new medium photographer Mathew Brady employs to chronicle the Civil War.

The company now has a substantially increased product line and 150 new employees. To accommodate this growth, it buys and renovates a post-Revolutionary-era building at 81 Maiden Lane in Manhattan and moves its headquarters there. The site carries the Pfizer name for nearly a century.

Pfizer soon becomes America's leading producer of citric acid. As new drinks like Coca-Cola™, Dr. Pepper™, and Pepsi-Cola™ gain popularity, demand for citric acid soars. It becomes Pfizer's main product and the launching pad of its growth in the decades to follow.

Spurred by America's westward expansion and its own growing number of clients west of the Mississippi, Pfizer opens offices and a warehouse in Chicago, Illinois, its first location outside of New York.

However, the agreement stipulates that Charles Pfizer can buy William Erhart's share at half its inventory value — an option Charles Pfizer quickly exercises, consolidating ownership of the company in his hands.

A statement made by Charles Pfizer at the company's 50th anniversary celebration reveals where the company stands as it moves into the 20th century and into an increasingly competitive marketplace: "Our goal has been and continues to be the same: to find a way to produce the highest-quality products and to perfect the most efficient way to accomplish this, in order to serve our customers. This company has built itself on its reputation and its dedication to these standards, and if we are to celebrate another 50 years, we must always be aware that quality is the keystone."

Pfizer would remain a privately held company until June 22, 1942, when 240,000 shares of new common stock were offered to the public

He serves as President from 1906 to 1941 and briefly as Chairman in 1941. He is the last member of the Pfizer/Erhart family to be actively involved with the company.

Company sales exceed $3 million.