H. K. Mulford Co.

The year was 1894. Women's dresses extended from neck to ankle. Trolley cars clattered along Chester Pike, then still a toll road. And the village of Glen Olden was incorporated as the Borough of Glenolden.

It was the same year a pioneering pharmaceutical firm known as the H. K. Mulford Co. of Philadelphia opened a biological laboratory in the southern end of Glenolden for the production of a breakthrough antitoxin for diphtheria.

The treatment for this virulent disease, which especially affected children, had been developed recently in Europe and was only available from overseas sources. When Mulford entered the field, its antitoxin was said to be the first domestic pharmaceutical product offered commercially in the United States.

The company eventually would expand its Glenolden holdings from a single building on a 25-acre tract along South Avenue to a total of 52 buildings and 200 acres, including the expansive Ridgeway Farm and mill site along Hook Road (now Delmar Drive), some of which overlapped into Folcroft.

At its height, around 1920, the firm had about 1,000 employees, including physicians, pharmacists, chemists, veterinarians and many other technically trained individuals. Glenolden's entire population at the time was only 1,944.

Longtime residents recalled that Mulford was a good neighbor in the borough. It hired locally, maintained a campus-type property, contributed to the local fire company, and sponsored numerous picnics, a girl's baseball team and annual fireworks.

Mulford eventually owned all the land south of the old Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad (now Amtrak) between South and Glenolden Avenues. It also had an even larger holding at the farm site, which was purchased from Ephraim Ridgeway, last owner of the Glen Olden Mill, which gave the borough its name. The mill was destroyed by fire in 1896.

By 1929, when Mulford merged with the Maryland corporation of Sharp & Dohme, the firm was considered to be the largest commercial biological laboratory in the world, having successfully developed a long list of human and veterinary biological products, including smallpox vaccine.

Excerpt from: Recalling The Heyday Of Pioneering Drug Firm The H. K. Mulford Co. Of Glenolden Produced A Breakthrough Diphtheria Antitoxin

The vice president, Henry K. Mulford, had established the firm in the late 1880s, when he purchased the "Old Simes" drugstore, at the corner of 18th and Market Streets in downtown Philadelphia. The drugstore, which dated back to 1815, had been operated by two well established pharmacists, Joseph L. Remington and Lucius P. Sayre. Remington was dean of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and had published a text, Remington's Practice of Pharmacy, that went through sixteen editions after its initial appearance in 1885. After selling the store to Mulford, his former employee, Sayre became dean of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Kansas.

Although Mulford was only twenty-one when he took over, he was not content running a retail drugstore. Shortly after he acquired the business, he began to produce a line of pharmaceutical preparations, including lozenges, elixirs, tinctures, antiseptics, fluid extracts, and liquors, along with syrups for the burgeoning soda fountain trade. This was the traditional route followed by pharmaceutical entrepreneurs, and by the 1880s, there were more than 140 such firms in Philadelphia, most of them selling both to the wholesale and retail drug trade, as Mulford was.

Short of working capital and determined to expand his operations, Mulford sought a financial backer and found it in 1889 in the person of Milton Campbell, a fellow graduate of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. The two men needed only a 30 minute conversation to cement their relationship. In 1891 they re-organized and incorporated the H. K. Mulford Co., with Campbell as president and Mulford as vice president. The firm had net assets of about $46 000 at the time. During the following year, they had sales of only $35 000, but they broadened their product line and made good use of a compressed tablet machine that Mulford and a colleague patented. Their mass produced, water-soluble pills found a ready market, and soon the H. K. Mulford Co. was operating two laboratories for the production of a greatly expanded line of "pills and medicinal agents." By this time, they were marketing more than 800 different medical products and had a branch office in Chicago.

From Galambos and Sewell's Networks of Innovation: Vaccine Development at Merck, Sharp & Dohme, and Mulford, 1885-1995. (1995, pp. 10-11).

See H. K. Mulford Ad for more.

See H. K. Mulford Tincture of Cannabis Indica for an example of their products.

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