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 your company should consider putting your vapor rub in a stick form similar to a deodorant stick. It would allow application to be quicker and easier without getting all over your hands.


hello i am making enquirIes regarding shares that i had gained whilst working as an employee at Richardson and vicks in the Skelmersdale area, i received two lots of shares one for my 100% attendance and the others for my punctuality,i have tried various ways of contacting persons whom i was told may be able to help me but this was to no avail however i was then given your email and told to see if you maybe you could help with my enquiries


Hi Linda,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia.  Unfortunately, we do not have any information to help answer your question.  This website is the online encyclopedia of North Carolina and you have posted on the entry for The Vick Chemical Company.

It appears that present day Vicks is a subsidiary of the Proctor & Gamble Company. I am including a link to the web page with contact information for the Investor/Shareholder Relations at Proctor & Gamble.  You may want to contact them.

I hope this information helps. 

Good luck and best wishes,

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library



Can you tellme if the turpintine in Vicks' vapour rub is natural or artifically dervived? Thanks


Hi Patricia,

The company that makes it would likely be the best resource for that information. You may contact Vicks (Procter & Gamble) through their website at:


Michelle Underhill
Digital Information Management Program
NC Government & Heritage Library


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