The Smith Brothers were makers of the first cough drops produced and advertised in the United States, becoming one of the most famous brands in the country in its day.
William Wallace Smith I (1830–1913) and Andrew Smith (1836–1895) were the sons of James Smith (c1800-1866) of Poughkeepsie, New York. James' family had emigrated from Fife, Scotland, to Canada in 1831, and James from St. Armand, Quebec, to the U.S. in 1847.
In New York, James opened an ice cream shop called "James Smith and Son." James Smith bought a cough drop recipe from a journeyman peddler named Sly Hawkins and in 1852 made his first batch of "Smith Brothers Cough Drops".
William and Andrew took over the business after their father died in 1866.
Originally the drops were sold from glass jars on countertops. To prevent drug stores from selling generic versions the company began packaging drops in branded boxes in 1872. To distinguish their drops from imitators, the bearded brothers created a logo featuring their portraits and stamped it on their boxes. When trademarked in 1877 the word "Trade" appeared under the picture of William and the word "Mark" Andrew's. It followed the brothers became known as Trade and Mark, nicknames that stick to this day.
Of the brothers, William Smith was the dominant, community-minded and a prohibitionist. He was known for such quirks as keeping financial records on the backs of used envelopes. He ran for public office several times and was a generous local philanthropist who assessed his brother Andrew for half of all charitable donations whether he knew of them or not.
Andrew, on the other hand, was known as the more amiable brother and not a tee-totaller.
The company's staunch defense of its trademark made the Smiths' faces among the most famous in America, the subject of editorials, comics, and cultural references.
Andrew Smith died in 1895, and William continued as company president until he died in 1913. William was succeeded by his son, Arthur G. Smith (c1875-1936), who expanded the company by adding menthol drops in 1922, cough syrup in 1926, and wild cherry drops 1948[dubious ]. Arthur G. Smith had two sons: William Wallace Smith II (1888–1955) and Robert Lansing Smith (1891–1962).
In 1963 the brand was purchased by Warner-Lambert. It was bought by F & F Foods of Chicago, Illinois, in 1972 and production left Poughkeepsie. The iconic Smith Brothers logo was diminished in favor of the F&F Foods logo and the brothers name recognition declined, though they would continue to make appearances in pop culture references such as The Simpsons "Oh Brother, Where Bart Thou" episode. In 2011 the brand was sold to GemCap, a private equity fund in Santa Monica, California. Smith Brothers Cough Drops are currently produced in a factory on Chicago's southwest side and have recently been re-launched with a new line of health and wellness drops and products.
- 1830 Birth of William Wallace Smith I
- 1831 Emigration of Smith family from Scotland to Canada
- 1836 Birth of Andrew Smith
- 1847 Emigration from Canada to Poughkeepsie, New York
- 1852 Cough drops advertised in newspapers
- 1866 Death of James Smith
- 1870 Trademark bill defeated
- 1872 Prepackaged cough drops introduced
- 1876 Trademarks recognized
- 1877 Smith Brothers trademark registered
- 1888 William Wallace Smith II born
- 1891 Birth of Robert Lansing Smith
- 1894 Death of Andrew Smith
- 1913 Death of William Wallace Smith I
- 1922 Menthol drops introduced
- 1926 Cough syrup introduced
- 1936 Death of Arthur G. Smith
- 1948 Wild cherry drops introduced
- 1955 Death of William Wallace Smith II
- 1962 Death of Robert Lansing Smith
- 1964 Brand is sold to Warner-Lambert
- 1977 Manufacturing moved to Chicago, Illinois
- Time magazine. September 24, 1934.
- "The Beards That Made Rough-keepsie Famous | American History Lives at American Heritage". americanheritage.com. Retrieved 2014-05-31.
- "Died". Time magazine. March 14, 1955. Retrieved 2011-11-15.
- "The Brothers Move On". Time magazine. February 21, 1964. Retrieved 2011-11-15.
- "Morris Fox, Pharmacist, 102". Associated Press in the New York Times. October 1, 1989. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
- "Sweet Acquisitions [sic]". F & F Foods. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
- "Smith Brothers Cough Drops | Smith Brothers Co". thesmithbrothers.com. Retrieved 2014-05-31.