Saturday, February 27, 2016

Vicks VapoRub and the Joshua Vick Connection

As Told By Durant Vick

            Joshua and Rosetta Vick had three children: Eudora Laurinda, George Davis and Edward Warren. George, who was my Grandfather, was also a doctor in Selma.
            Rosetta Richardson Vick’s brother, Lunsford Richardson, Jr., finished at Davidson College and came to Selma, Johnston Co., NC to teach at the private school. After four years, he realized that there was little money in teaching. He had $600 so he purchased a drugstore owned by Dr. Joshua Vick and an associate for $450 in 1880. With the extra $150, he restocked the store.

            Lunsford Richardson roomed at my great grandfather’s [Dr. Joshua Vick] home in Selma on Massey Street and paid $10 per month rent. Joshua and Lunsford became good friends.
A Move
            After ten years in Selma, Lunsford Richardson felt that a larger area was needed so he relocated to Greensboro, NC. He and partner John Fariss bought the Porter and Tate drugstore on Elm Street and renamed it the Richardson-Fariss Drugstore. One of his employees was William Sidney Porter who was later known as O. Henry, the writer.
This ad appeared in the Greensboro Telegram on 16 February 1911.

            Lunsford Richardson was an innovator and he began to develop medicinal products or home remedies which he sold in the drugstore. In 1894, he introduced a product that was to make him a fortune, a cure for croup. It was first named “Richardson’s Croup and Pneumonia Salve.” This name was too long and did not have a good marketing ring to it. The name was later changed from Richardson’s to Vick’s, which was subsequently trademarked by Mr. Richardson for his products. According to family lore, the name Vicks was selected to honor his brother-in-law, Dr. Joshua Vick.
            After the name was changed to Vicks, the product we know as Vicks VapoRub was first called Vick’s Salve or Vick’s Magic Salve, but it was later changed back to Vicks VapoRub. As to how the name VapoRub was derived, I do not know but the combination of the two techniques of external medication — stimulation and inhalation were certain described with the word —VapoRub.
A New Business
            In 1898, Richardson’s interest in making remedies prompted him to sell his share in the thriving drugstore to his partner and start a new company, Lunsford Richardson Wholesale Drug Company, with three employees, in Greensboro. Richardson quickly tired of fighting with the other stockholders in the company about what to do with the profits. While he wanted to put any profits back into the business to finance more advertising, they wanted them as dividends. As a result, Richardson sold his share of the business in 1905.
Richard Lunsford

Junk Mail
            Richardson took his savings and opened a new business, Vick Family Remedies Company, this time owned solely by him. He made a number of different remedies under the Vicks name, and marketed them in twenty surrounding counties. In 1905, Mr. Richardson convinced the Postal Service to allow him to mass-mail his advertising circulars simply to “Boxholder” instead of individuals. Because this marked the first such mailing, Mr. Richardson gained the dubious distinction of also being known as “the father of junk mail.
            Despite his hard work, Lunsford Richardson’s new business did not prosper, and he began to run out of savings. In 1907, he asked his oldest son, Henry Smith Richardson (1885 -1972), who worked in New York, to be advertising and sales manager for the fledgling company in hopes that his son could rescue it.
New Ideas
            Smith Richardson was an aggressive Salesman and an innovative advertising manager. He traveled all over North Carolina, and then the southeast, from drugstore to drugstore, and country store to country store, selling VapoRub. First he and the sales force traveled by horse and buggy, and then by Model T Ford. For his efforts, Smith Richardson was made a partner in 1911. His prescription for a healthy company was to focus its efforts on selling the product that brought in the most money, Vicks Croup and Pneumonia Salve. By 1911, the other remedies had been dropped, and the company had changed its name to Vick Chemical Company and its product’s name to the catchy Vicks VapoRub.
Found at Center for Creative Leadership

Advertising Innovations
            The company’s advertising strategies were revolutionary. Vick Chemical Company was one of the first businesses to use such techniques as road signs, store displays, street car advertising, “mark out” slogans, and free samples. When the company began expanding its territory north and west, it was one of the first companies to take advantage of Rural Free Delivery, by sending samples through the mail.
Early Vicks Products
            My brother, Charles Vick, from Richmond, dropped me a note concerning a copy of L. Richardson Drug Company letter from Dec. 1901. It listed the Vick products as follows: Vick’s Yellow Pine-Cough Syrup, Vick’s Carolina Dead Shot Vermifuge, Kaduk Headache Powders, Vick’s Little Liver Pills, Vick’s Electric Hot Drops, Vick’s Tar Heel Sarsaparilla, Vick’s Croup Salve, Vick’s Aromatic Wine Cod Liver Oil with Malt Wild Cherry and Hypophosphates, Vick’s Turtle Oil Liniment, and Vick’s Perfected and Tasteless Pure Castor Oil.
This ad appeared in the Greensboro Patriot on 28 February 1906.

[This Story first appeared in The Connector, newsletter of Tar River Connections Genealogical Society, in the Fall 2007 issue. Durant G. Vick, great grandson of Joshua Vick, provided most of the information, including material from the Richardson family book Annals of an American Family.  The Smithfield, NC website was also helpful.]

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