Smith Brothers

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Smith Brothers
Smith Brothers menthol introduced in 1922

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".[1]

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" under 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.[2]

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 in 1948[dubious ]. Arthur G. Smith had two sons: William Wallace Smith II (1888–1955) and Robert Lansing Smith (1891–1962). William Wallace Smith II was born in Poughkeepsie N.Y.[3][4]


In 1963 the brand was purchased by Warner-Lambert.[5]

It was bought by F & F Foods of Chicago, Illinois, in 1972 and production left Poughkeepsie.[6] The iconic Smith Brothers logo was diminished in favor of the F&F Foods logo[citation needed] and the brothers' name recognition declined, though they would continue to make appearances in pop culture references such as the season 1, 1986 of Golden Girls episode, "The Flu” Rose politely declines a Sucrets cough drop from her date, and tells him that she’s “sucking on a Smith Brothers” And later on the 2009 Simpsons episode, "O Brother, Where Bart Thou?" The expression, "When the Smith Brothers shave..." was used in popular culture to mean something that was never expected to happen. In the 1906 Victor Herbert operetta "The Red Mill", two heavily bearded men appear on stage, while one of the Vaudevillians yells, "Pipe the Smith Brothers!"

In 2011, the brand was sold to GemCap, a private equity fund in Santa Monica, California.[7]

In 2014 the brand was purchased by hedge fund York Capital Management, who once again attempted to revive the brand which had largely disappeared from store shelves.[8] However, in 2016, the Smith brothers cough drop brand folded due to declining sales. Smith Brothers Cough Drops remained available on some retail shelves and online sources, due to previously purchased unexpired back stock.


In May 2016, the Smith Brothers brand was acquired by Lanes Brands in Bedford, New Hampshire, the United States subsidiary of Lanes Health in Gloucester, United Kingdom. [9] According to the Lane Brands website, the Smith Brothers brand of cough drops returned to the American and worldwide markets later in 2017.[10] According to the homepage of the company website, the cough drop flavors Honey Lemon, Wild Cherry and Warm Apple Pie cough drop flavors are currently being offered again in the form of packets filled with sealed drops, with the flavors Black Licorice, Menthol Eucalyptus, and small boxes of cough drops not yet available.


  • 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
  • 2016 Brand is acquired by Lanes Brands, the US subsidiary of Lanes Health in Gloucester, UK
  • 2017 Lane Brands New Hampshire subsidiary website states cough drops to return in 2017


  1. ^ Time magazine. September 24, 1934. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ "The Beards That Made Rough-keepsie Famous | American History Lives at American Heritage". Retrieved 2014-05-31.
  3. ^ "Died". Time magazine. March 14, 1955. Retrieved 2011-11-15.
  4. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography: Being the History of the United States as Illustrated in the Lives of the Founders, Builders, and Defenders of the Republic, and of the Men and Women who are Doing the Work and Moulding the Thought of the Present Time, Volume 44
  5. ^ "The Brothers Move On". Time magazine. February 21, 1964. Retrieved 2011-11-15.
  6. ^ "Morris Fox, Pharmacist, 102". Associated Press in the New York Times. October 1, 1989. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
  7. ^ "Sweet Acquisitions [sic]". F & F Foods. Archived from the original on 2010-02-21. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
  8. ^ Elliott, Stuart (November 24, 2-14)Hey Brothers, can you spare a cough drop? New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2016.
  9. ^
  10. ^

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