Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pfizer Founded in Brooklyn

As the pharmaceutical company Pfizer has been in the news lately for its $68 billion acquisition of the company Wyeth, I thought it a good time to remind people that this multi-national giant got its start in Brooklyn.

Long before it lifted the nation's spirits, among other things, with the development of Viagra, Pfizer got its start in a modest brick building in Williamsburg in 1849. It was founded by German immigrant and chemist Charles Pfizer, who borrowed $2,500 from his dad and partnered with his cousin, Charles Erhart, a confectioner. Their first success was an antiseptic used to treat intestinal worms that they flavored with toffee. Yum.

Charles Pfizer lived with his family in one of the fancy mansions that can still be found along Washington Avenue in Clinton Hill, though they are mostly broken up into apartments now. He passed away in 1906 and his son Emile took over as president of the company until 1941. In 1942, the company went public and no Pfizer family member was ever directly involved with running it again.

Though Pfizer moved its headquarters to Manhattan as early as the 1860s, it kept a plant open in Brooklyn, which it only just closed in 2007. It was a small packaging operation that employed 600 people. Pfizer now employs close to 100,000 people worldwide.

Aside from addressing erectile dysfunction, we can thank Pfizer for the mass production of penicillin, which sure came in handy during World War II.
The photo above shows Charles Pfizer with his family in 1870. It is from the book Historic Photos of Brookyn by John Manbeck


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1 comment:

Sady said...

The Brooklyn Historical Society collected oral histories from Pfizer Brooklyn last year when the plant found out it was closing. It's a great collection of stories, an important piece of Brooklyn history going all the way to the present.
Oral History Program Coordinator, BHS