Copyright notice

This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Printer-friendly page

Vick Chemical Company

by Norris W. Preyer, 2006

See also: Richardson II, Lunsford (from Tar Heel Junior Historian)"Early examples of Vicks VapoRub in the exhibit Health and Healing Experiences in North Carolina at the N.C. Museum of History."

The Vick Chemical Company began as a small cold remedy company in Greensboro and grew into a diversified Fortune 500 corporation with sales in more than 160 countries around the world. In 1905 Lunsford Richardson, a pharmacist and former teacher, started the company (until 1911 called the Vick Family Remedies Company) to manufacture and market the many different medications he had been developing since the 1890s. His eldest daughter served as secretary and his eldest son became the sales manager. Growth came through concentrating on Richardson's most popular product, Vicks VapoRub, a vaporizing salve for colds. Utilizing free samples Vick Chemical Company, Greensboro, NC photo by Charles Clark. Image courtesy of State Archives of North Carolina, call #: ConDev63-43A. and billboard and newspaper advertising, VapoRub expanded from the Southeast into the Northeast, and by 1917 it had reached the diffused population west of the Mississippi.

After Richardson's death in 1919 his two sons, H. Smith and Lunsford Richardson, and his son-in-law William Y. Preyer oversaw the business's accelerating growth. The company expanded sales to foreign markets, automated production in Greensboro and Philadelphia, listed Vicks stock on the New York Stock Exchange (1925), and moved company headquarters to New York City. Vicks began marketing other cold products such as nose drops and cough drops, and it diversified into prescription drugs, toiletries, and other fields. The company name was changed to Richardson-Merrell in 1960 and to Richardson-Vicks in 1981, when the Merrell pharmaceutical division was sold to Dow Chemical. Sales passed the $1 billion mark in 1979, and by 1983 health care and consumer brands such as Oil of Olay, Clearasil, Pantene, Vidal Sassoon, Fixodent, and Thompson's Water Seal represented more than 75 percent of company sales.

In September 1985 Unilever, one of the world's largest manufacturers of personal care products, sought to acquire Vicks. Seeing no way to head off the takeover after a three-week battle, Vicks turned to a "white knight" and on 7 October sold the company to Procter & Gamble. Vicks VapoRub, past the century mark, continued as one of Procter & Gamble's major products.


Locke Craig Raper, Vick Chemical Company: A Case Study in Innovation (1991).

H. Smith Richardson, Early History and Management Philosophy of Richardson-Merrell (1975).

Additional Resources:

Vick's Company:

Lunsford Richardson NC Historical Marker:

Richardson-Vick, Inc., Records UNC Libraries:,Inc.html

Image Credit:

"Early examples of Vicks VapoRub in the exhibit Health and Healing Experiences in North Carolina at the N.C. Museum of History." Available from (accessed July 3, 2012).

Vick Chemical Company, Greensboro, NC photo by Charles Clark. Image courtesy of State Archives of North Carolina, call #: ConDev63-43A.


Origin - location: 



I think you should have a mask to cover your nose and cheeks and temples to wear at night, love vicks products, people make fun of me cause when some one is sick I go get vicks for them, love your product since I was a child.!



Thank you for your comment. 

This is an encyclopedia article about the company. Their website is


Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library


Are there any references to George H. Gerlach, International Vice President, Vicks Chemical Company? He was instrumental in bringing global drugs to the U.S for testing and acquisition. In his early days with the company, (1945-50) he developed new sources for menthol in Japan and Mexico.


I saw a commercial advertising Vicks in a stick deodorant type. I know saw the commercial. However I cannot find it on your website nor in stores. My husband hates having to put in on my lungs and back but I get Bronchitis and it completely calms my cough.He doesnt like the sticky smell cause it is a little difficult to get off. I love the smell. I promote your product because I know it works the way I use it. I have convienced so many people to use it because it works! I'm telling you I could be your spokes person because I believe in your product and always have. Please bring forth the stick deodorant style. Please. Sincerely, Constance Hicks


You guys should really invent the spray Vicks or roll on or deodorant style so we don't get all over our hands .


where can I buy Vicks Inhaler Stick In the 65616 area code? I hope I can still get your inhaler cause I have always use vicks products I think they are great so please let me know where I can get this? Please don't tell me you stop making this product.


Hi Jack,

Thanks for visiting NCpedia and sharing your question. The entry you commented on for the Vick Chemical Company is an article in the NCpedia, North Carolina's online encyclopedia. We are not connected with the Vicks Company.

You may want to ask a pharmacist in your area or visit the Vicks company website. Here is the link:

Good luck and best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library


I have been looking on every site, every drug store etc etc, I am trying to purchase ththe.VICKS VAPOR RUB "CREAM" in a tube,can anyone tell me where I can find it?????? DESPERATE MOTHER, THANK U SO MUCH,


Thank you for using NCpedia. Please try contacting the company to make sure they still make it. Contact information may be found at

Good luck!

Michelle Underhill
NC Government & Heritage Library


do you know longer make the vicks inhalers I use to be able to get that at my local grocery store and am not able to find them anymore. They were great for winter and now no longer exsist or unsure if this product was discontinued plz let me know so I will stop looking for it in the winter

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at