Pfizer Inc.

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Pfizer Inc. was founded in 1849 by cousins Charles Pfizer, a chemist, and Charles Erhart, a confectioner. Recent immigrants to Brooklyn, N.Y. from Germany, the cousins opened their business under the name Charles Pfizer & Company in a red-brick building in the Town of Williamsburgh, now the neighborhood of Williamsburg in the borough of Brooklyn. Their first successful product was a form of santonin covered in an almond toffee flavoring that was used to treat intestinal worms. During the Civil War, Pfizer supplied vital medical treatments (namely tartaric acid and cream of tartar) to the Union Army, which propelled a period of unprecedented growth and success for the company. In 1881 Pfizer moved its headquarters to a post-Revolutionary-era building at 81 Maiden Lane in Manhattan, and in 1882 it expanded to the Midwest, opening offices in Chicago, IL. By 1899 Pfizer was an established leader in the American chemical industry, producing such products as citric acid, borax, cream of tartar, and iodine.

The 20th century saw further innovation in Pfizer's product base. In 1919, Pfizer chemists James Currie and Jasper Kane developed a method of mold fermentation that allowed the company to mass-produce citric acid from sugar. In 1936, Pfizer became the world's leading producer of vitamin C, and by the late 1940s the company was the world leader in the production of all vitamins. In 1941, in response to an appeal from the United States Government, Pfizer began producing penicillin (commonly referred to at the time as "the miracle drug") for the treatment of Allied Soldiers during World War II, and was the only company to do so by utilizing the fermentation techniques developed by Currie and Kane. By 1944, Pfizer had developed a method of producing penicillin on a mass scale, and the company became an instrumental player in the worldwide treatment of many previously untreatable bacterial infections. Through this contribution to medicine, Pfizer cemented its position as one of the world's most distinguished leaders in the pharmaceutical industry, a reputation it would continue to uphold throughout the rest of the 20th century.

While Pfizer built upon its international growth in the latter half of the 20th century, it was also locally active in the Brooklyn community from which it emerged. Since its founding in Williamsburgh in 1849, Pfizer had served as one of the major employers of the Brooklyn labor force, and when the area surrounding its plant fell into a period of decline in the 1970s and 1980s, the company formed a public-private partnership with the city that resulted in increased jobs, housing, and education: unused lots were converted into low- and middle-income housing, apartment buildings were refurbished for the homeless, and a vacant four-story building was converted into the Beginning with Children Charter School. In 2007, Pfizer announced it would be phasing out operations at its Brooklyn plant, with the closing of the plant taking effect in 2009. However, the company still operates the Beginning with Children Charter School, and plans to convert the red-brick building that served as its original headquarters into the Charles Pfizer Community Education Center.

As of the first decade of the 21st century, Pfizer continues to be a vital player in the pharmaceutical industry, with locations throughout the world and with many major drugs in its product line for the treatment of such diseases as cancer, Alzheimer's, and HIV/AIDS, among many others. Though Pfizer no longer carries out operations in Brooklyn, it continues to hold its corporate headquarters in midtown Manhattan.

Sources: "Pfizer's Birthplace, Soon Without Pfizer." New York Times, January 28, 2007. Accessed August 23, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/28/nyregion/28pfizer.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=pfizer%20brooklyn&st=cse Pfizer Inc. "A Pioneering Spirit on the Fronteirs of Medicine." Accessed August 23, 2010. http://www.pfizer.com/about/history/timeline.jsp

From the guide to the Pfizer Inc. collection, circa 1849-1992, 2007-2008, (Brooklyn Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Pfizer Foundation. [Annual reports], 1980- Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis, IUPUI
referencedIn University of Connecticut, Vice President for Academic Affairs Office Records [Anthony DiBenedetto and Julius A. Elias, 1981-1988], undated, 1960-1991. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
referencedIn University of Connecticut, President's Office Records [John A. DiBiaggio, 1979-1985], undated, 1952-1986. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
creatorOf Pfizer Inc. collection, circa 1849-1992, 2007-2008 Brooklyn Historical Society
referencedIn Peter Pollack papers, 1965-2009, 1980-2005 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Archives Organization File, 1875-1986, pt.2. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Puerto Rican Oral History Project Records, Bulk, 1973-1975, 1960-1984, bulk 1973-1975. Brooklyn Historical Society
creatorOf Pfizer Inc. Pfizer Inc. collection 1888-1995. Western Michigan University, Dwight B. Waldo Library
referencedIn Bates Worldwide (Firm). Bates Worldwide, Inc. records, 1934-2003 and undated. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Pollack, Peter, 1930-2010. Peter Pollack papers, 1965-2009, bulk 1980-2005. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Hemmendinger, Henry, 1915-2003. Henry Hemmendinger papers, 1931-2000 (bulk, 1960-1985). Hagley Museum & Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Acosta, Flora, 1894-1975 person
associatedWith Acosta, Magda, 1905- person
associatedWith Acosta, Ramon, 1880- person
associatedWith Acosta, Rosenda, 1908- person
associatedWith Ally, Trina, 1921- person
associatedWith Armas, Encarnacion, 1910- person
associatedWith Arroyo, Angel M., 1912- person
associatedWith Arroyo, Carmen R., 1909- person
associatedWith Barreto, Jaime person
associatedWith Bates Worldwide (Firm) corporateBody
associatedWith Bermudez, Justina, 1921- person
associatedWith Bonilla, Carmelita, 1908- person
associatedWith Brooklyn Historical Society (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.). corporateBody
associatedWith Carrasquillo, Magdalena, 1910- person
associatedWith Carrero, Jean, 1914- person
associatedWith Chas. Pfizer & Co. corporateBody
associatedWith Colon, Ramon, 1900- person
associatedWith Correa, Elba person
associatedWith Cortes, Esther M., 1910- person
associatedWith Cortiella, Mayda person
associatedWith Cresente, Mercedes person
associatedWith Cresente, Pedro person
associatedWith De Jesus, Pastor, 1889- person
associatedWith Diaz, Mercedes person
associatedWith Estepa, Julio, 1918- person
associatedWith Ferrell, Julio, 1893- person
associatedWith Festa, Josephine, 1927- person
associatedWith Figueroa, Rosario, 1902- person
associatedWith Fontanez-Soto, Santiago, 1905- person
associatedWith Ford, Clara Bryant, 1866-1950. person
associatedWith Fortun, Maria, 1899- person
associatedWith Garden, Maximina, 1914- person
associatedWith Giboyeaux, Jose Ramon, 1901- person
associatedWith Gonzalez, Carmen, 1926- person
associatedWith Guanhill, Elizabeth, 1924- person
associatedWith Guanhill, Pedro, 1915- person
associatedWith Hemmendinger, Henry, 1915-2003. person
associatedWith Hernandez, Julio, 1925- person
associatedWith Hernandez, Luis, 1920- person
associatedWith Homar, Lorenzo person
associatedWith Hostalaza, Emilio, 1900- person
associatedWith Irizarry, Honorina Weber, 1906- person
associatedWith LaRosa, Ramon, 1898- person
associatedWith Larrequi, Dicky, 1927- person
associatedWith Loperena, Felix, 1906- person
associatedWith Maisonet, Jovita, 1904- person
associatedWith Malabe, Orlando, 1919- person
associatedWith Marinez, Gumercindo, 1935- person
associatedWith Marrero, Luis, 1901- person
associatedWith Marti, Anaberta, 1915- person
associatedWith Marti, Nereida, 1934- person
associatedWith Martinez, Gregorio, 1906- person
associatedWith Medina, Felipe, 1896- person
associatedWith Melendez, Angel, 1897- person
associatedWith Melendez, Filomena, 1885- person
associatedWith Mercado, Peter O., 1909- person
associatedWith Mongtignier, Gilbert, 1938- person
associatedWith Mulero, Mildred, 1928- person
associatedWith Negron, Sophie, 1891- person
associatedWith New York City Community College. Puerto Rican and Latin Studies Program. corporateBody
associatedWith Oliveras, Edna Rosado, 1934 person
associatedWith Padron, Lucila person
associatedWith Perez, Nick, 1905- person
associatedWith Pfizer Foundation. corporateBody
associatedWith Plasencia, Gonzalo, 1909- person
associatedWith Pollack, Peter, 1930-2010. person
associatedWith Pollack, Peter, 1939-2010 person
associatedWith Pratts, Francisco, 1902- person
associatedWith Ramirez, Encarnation person
associatedWith Ramos, Juan, 1908- person
associatedWith Ramos, Maria C. person
associatedWith Rivera, Cecilia, 1903- person
associatedWith Rivera, Monte person
associatedWith Rivera, Pedro person
associatedWith Rivera, Tomas person
associatedWith Rodriquez, Juana Weber, 1897- person
associatedWith Rodriquez, Maria, 1911- person
associatedWith Rodriquez, Pedro, 1912- person
associatedWith Rodriquez, Ramon, 1902- person
associatedWith Rosado, Roberto person
associatedWith Ruiz, Mr. person
associatedWith Santiago, Georgina, 1890- person
associatedWith Santos, William person
associatedWith Sepulveda, Ernesto, 1903- person
associatedWith Simmons, Rafaela, 1903- person
associatedWith Tejada, Gloria, 1925- person
associatedWith Torres, Clemente, 1905- person
associatedWith Torres, Mr. person
associatedWith Torres, Olga, 1917- person
associatedWith University of Connecticut. President's Office. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Connecticut. Vice President for Academic Affairs Office. corporateBody
associatedWith Upjohn Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Upjohn, E.J., person
associatedWith Upjohn family. family
associatedWith Upjohn, H. U. person
associatedWith Upjohn, L.N. person
associatedWith Upjohn, Piero Cremaguan person
associatedWith Upjohn, Rachel Babcock person
associatedWith Upjohn, William, 1770-1847. person
associatedWith Vazquez, John person
associatedWith Vazquez, Juan, Sr., 1912- person
associatedWith Velasquez, Carolina, 1911- person
associatedWith Vice, Celia M., 1913- person
associatedWith Villa, Betty, 1919- person
associatedWith World's Columbian Exposition (1893 : Chicago, Ill.) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Economic conditions
Michigan--Kalamazoo
Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)
Subject
Architecture
Industry
Medicine
Penicillin
Penicillin
Pharmaceutical industry
Pharmaceutical industry
Pharmaceutical industry
Pharmaceutical industry
Space shuttles
Work environment
Occupation
Activity

Corporate Body

Active 1888

Active 1995

Information

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SNAC ID: 25753947