Smith Brothers’ Cough Drops, Made in Indiana

20190309_125424442711305.jpgSmith Brothers’ factory in Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana

On June 30, 1937, Smith Brothers incorporated to manufacture and sell cough drops and cough syrup in Indiana. Their company’s original and main factory was built in the middle 1800s in Poughkeepsie, New York; and they built a new plant there in 1914.The company added this second plant in 1921 in Michigan City, but it was not incorporated in Indiana until 1937.

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About 1847 Scottish immigrant James Smith received a recipe for a candied cough medicine from a customer at his Poughkeepsie, New York restaurant. He cooked a batch of it in his store’s kitchen and filled a bowl of the cough drops to sell to his customers. The cough medicine became popular enough to advertise in the local newspaper in 1852. After their father died in 1866, his sons William and Andrew took over the business and began to package the cough drops in boxes with the logo “Smith Brothers Cough Drops” and with the likeness of their bearded faces.

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The brothers built a factory in Poughkeepsie to produce and package the cough drops when their candied medicine’s popularity grew; the new factory had the capacity to produce three tons of of cough drops a day.

After William died in 1913, his son Arthur introduced menthol flavored drops and cherry cough syrup in 1926; wild cherry cough drops were added in 1948. After the death of Arthur in 1936, his sons William and Robert took over; they incorporated the Michigan City plant in 1937. At its peak, this plant produced 60 tons of cough drops!

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The Smith Brothers Michigan City plant closed in 1959; William had died in 1955 and Robert died in 1962. The company was sold to Warner-Lambert in 1963 and later production was moved to Chicago in 1977. Sales have dwindled, but the Smith Brothers company has been sold to Lanes Brands in 2016 who hope to revive the iconic brand.

The Smith Brothers Michigan City building was demolished in 1966, and now the site is a park-like setting including an amphi-theater on the banks of Trail Creek.

Written by Bob Gilyeat, a volunteer at the Indiana State Archives.

 

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