in 1885 to Lunsford Richardson and Mary Lynn Smith
in a small North Carolina town, H. Smith Richardson
grew up with his father's drug store. The family
business began in Selma when Lunsford Richardson
purchased a small drugstore.
The store grew under the care of
this talented Davidson College graduate enough to warrant
the move to the larger city of Greensboro,
NC. Lunsford's future blossomed with potential in the new
store; he began experimenting and soon created what
we know today as VicksVapoRub, which revolutionized the treatment of colds. Lunsford
decided to market his new pharmaceutical discovery
under the easily remembered name of Vicks, which also
happened to be the name of his brother-in-law.
Looking forward, Lunsford turned from retail to wholesale pharmaceuticals in 1898. With this decision, the Lunsford Richardson Wholesale Drug Company was founded. From this establishment, he marketed twenty-one products known under the name of Vicks Family Remedies to twenty surrounding counties. Seven years later, Lunsford founded a business dedicated to the twenty-one Vicks products. With this transition the Vick Family Remedies Company was born.
H. Smith Richardson began honing his business skills at an early age by delivering products on his bicycle. This soon led the young salesman at the age of thirteen or fourteen on short sales trips to nearby counties. After spending time at Davidson College and the U.S. Naval Academy, Richardson headed to New York City for employment. It was here that he began to understand the business world. After spending time as a night-time railroad office worker, conductor, and eventually as a successful salesman, he returned home to become his father's sales manager in 1907. Richardson returned home with great enthusiasm for the company, its products, and the opportunity to fulfill his father's offer to become a partner.
Upon his arrival home, he faced many obstacles that posed a great threat to the livelihood of the family business. Dwindling sales and profits threatened the future of the Vicks Family Remedies. After taking two short sales trips, Richardson came home with a plan for success. First of all, he advocated selling only the one truly unique product of the line - the Vicks Salve. Second, he suggested that the product's name be changed to Vicks VapoRub. Finally, he suggested that the company name be changed from Vicks Family Remedies to the Vick Chemical Company. After these improvements were in place, he was ready to fulfill his father's dream, stated best in his father's words, "I had seen a vision, I had dreamed dreams of a world-wide business."
The Vick Chemical Company quickly increased sales through the hard work of many. This success was largely due to the fact that specific advertising programs were used to target different consumer groups. The talented Vick Chemical Company salesmen took to the road to tell Americans of the wonders of Vicks VapoRub. In the rural south, the popularity of Vicks VapoRub spread through word of mouth and was promoted by signs and billboards. To win over the industrial north, Richardson came up with a profitable advertising plan. Before the arrival of the Vicks team, the local paper was notified and ran advertisements alongside news columns. In this advertisement, coupons were presented to customers for sample size portions at participating local drugstores.
To complete their national empire, Richardson secured customers in the West by mailing samples to rural free delivery boxes. Richardson believed in the salve and knew that once customers knew the wonders of the drug it would sell itself. From his stronghold in the United States, he launched Vicks VapoRub successfully to South America and the European continent. Thus, a true world-wide medicinal empire had been successfully created.
The Vick Chemical Company weathered through some difficult periods. Richardson led his company to success through many obstacles, including the death of his father in 1919, the Depression, and an unsuccessful merger in 1930 with three other drug companies to form Drug Inc. However, along with these unfortunate occurrences came some situations, such as the Spanish influenza of 1918/1919, that greatly boosted demand for the company's products. Through all these times, Richardson continued to lead his company successfully. The company was rejuvenated in 1938 when The Vick Chemical Company acquired the Merrell Company, thus becoming Richardson Merrell, Inc.
Richardson began to withdraw from the day-to-day running of the business in the 1930's and dedicated himself to the development of a management philosophy. With this objective in mind, he studied the business cycle to formulate a plan to guide executives. In addition, Richardson instituted an early recruiting program to find talented individuals and implemented a management development program to train these promising individuals. Richardson further aided these programs with the Executive Personnel Committee, the Long-Range Planning Committee, a Finance Committee, and accelerated the role and function of the Board of Directors. Richardson had truly fulfilled his father's dream of a worldwide empire for Vicks VapoRub.
The Smith Richardson Foundation was established in 1935 by H. Smith Richardson and his wife, Grace Jones Richardson. He lived by principles that are often termed old-fashioned, and he gave generously of his wealth. Few people have combined Mr. Richardson's respect for traditional values and his willingness to innovate. He believed in giving bright young people responsibility commensurate with their abilities. Throughout his life he maintained a direct interest in people and institutions conceived to improve the lives of others. There was a rich complexity to him that impressed everyone who knew him.
In setting forth his reasons for creating the Foundation in 1935, he wrote:
"From the beginning, America, the
new world...has offered to humble families, native
or immigrant, the Opportunity to gain a fortune...if
they were diligent and lucky. With this fortune went
the Right to remain secure in its possession and enjoyment
for themselves and their heirs after them...Unquestionably,
for two hundred years this Opportunity has played a
large part in the building of the nation."
Mr. Richardson pointed out the incentive that this "Right" and "Opportunity" has given to those who pushed the American frontier westward, as well as the impetus to "invention, discovery, trade and manufacture and all the varied development of our natural resources." It was characteristic of him to capitalize the words "Opportunity" and "Right": these were key words in his personal creed. He believed that "Opportunity" was something to be pursued with the utmost diligence and seized with zeal. His belief in a personal bill of rights was equally strong: a person rightfully owned what his industry brought him, and the free enterprise system permitted the maximum scope for industry. It was these qualities which enabled him to transform his father's small mortar-and-pestle drug manufacturing business into an industrial concern of international stature. By 1935, a strong social consciousness had begun to flourish in this soil of stout individualism.
To this end, Mr. Richardson wrote of the responsibilities required of a mature and reflective citizenship:
"I believe the need for the time and
thought of able men is that they be applied to the
increasingly weighty problems of government and the
serious social questions which now confront us and
will continue to press for solution in the future...the
greater the material wealth of the citizen the greater
are his obligations to the State and Nation...the obligations
to give his time and thought to these public and social
The Foundation continues to support programs that are consistent with the vision of its Founder.