Josiah K. Lilly, Sr.

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Joshua Kirby Lilly, Sr.

Birthplace: Greencastle, Putnam, Indiana, United States
Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Brevet Colonel Eli Lilly (USA) and Elizabeth Lilly
Husband of Lilly Marie Lilly
Father of Eli Lilly and Josiah Kirby Lilly, Jr.

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Josiah K. Lilly, Sr.,_Sr.

Josiah Kirby Lilly, Sr. (November 1, 1861 – January 1, 1948) was a pharmaceutical industrialist, philanthropist, and President of Eli Lilly and Company.


Josiah Kirby Lilly was born on November 1, 1861 in Greencastle, Indiana, the son of Eli Lilly, a pharmacist, and Emily Lemen Lilly. His father enlisted in the Union army and was away during his birth. His father returned home and first saw him in 1863. He had an unsettled childhood, and was frequently moved around. His family moved to Mississippi in 1865, where his father worked a cotton plantation. He and his parents where stricken with malaria in 1866. He and his father recovered, but his eight-month-pregnant mother died on August 20. His father was devastated by the death, and the plantation fell into disrepair, requiring him to file bankruptcy. Lilly was sent to live with his grandparents, Gustavus and Esther Lilly, in Greencastle while his father attempted to reverse the family's fortunes.

Lilly was a shy and sensitive boy, and found life difficult with his grandparents. He was often scared, and feared many of the farm animals. His father remarried in 1869 to Maria Cynthia Sloan, and Lilly was returned to his father's guardianship. His father had opened a new pharmacy in Paris, Illinois, and Lilly lived there until moving to Indianapolis in 1873. His father opened a new business, Eli Lilly and Company, in 1876 and Lilly, at age 14, quit school to work in the laboratory.

Eli Lilly and Company became a very successful business and in 1880, his father asked him to attend a college to get technical expertise to help the business better. He agreed and was sent to attend the Philadelphia School of Pharmacy. During his time at school he met Lilly Ridgley of Lexington, Kentucky. The couple was married on November 18, 1882. Upon his graduation and return in 1882, his father made him superintendent of the laboratory. By 1890, the company had grown into one of the largest in Indiana and have several hundred employees. Eli Lilly retired from the business to focus on charitable and civic pursuits and turned the company over to Lilly to manage. The 1890s where a time of an economic downturn, but through Lilly's leadership the company successfully survived the recession and continued to grow.

Lilly's first son, Eli Lilly Jr., was born on April 1, 1885. His second son Josiah K. Lilly Jr., was born September 25, 1893. Eli Lilly died in 1898, and Josiah inherited the family's fortune and business, becoming a wealthy millionaire. He continued to grow the business, which saw considerable growth during the 1910s. The company continued to advance production automation, while the research department made small advances. Before retiring from the company in 1922, he began a partnership with a Toronto firm (Connaught Anti-toxin Laboratories) that would result in the creation of insulin a few years later. His son Eli succeeded him as president of the company, while Lilly focused more of his time on philanthropy.

Josiah Lilly, Sr. was known for his philanthropic activities, and founded the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. along with his sons, Josiah K. Lilly Jr. and Eli Lilly in 1938. He managed the endowment for several years. He was the 1942 recipient of the Remington Medal.

The Lilly Endowment has become one of the largest private foundations in the United States.

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Josiah K. Lilly, Sr.'s Timeline

November 1, 1861
Greencastle, Putnam, Indiana, United States
November 18, 1882
Age 21
April 1, 1885
Age 23
Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana, United States
September 25, 1893
Age 31
Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana, United States
January 1, 1948
Age 86