Family Tree Tuesday – Eli Lilly
Eli Lilly was an American soldier, pharmaceutical chemist, industrialist, entrepreneur, and founder of the Eli Lilly and Company Pharmaceutical Corporation. During the American Civil War, Lilly enlisted in the Union Army recruiting a company of men to serve with him in an artillery battery, he was later promoted to colonel, and was given command of a cavalry unit. He was captured near the end of the war and held as a prisoner of war until its conclusion. After a failed attempt to run a plantation in Mississippi and the death of his wife Elizabeth Lemon, he returned to his pharmacy profession. In 1876, he opened his own business with plans to manufacture drugs and market them wholesale to pharmacies. His company was successful and soon became wealthy after making numerous advances in medicinal drug manufacturing.
Two of the early advances Lilly pioneered were creating gelatin capsules to hold medicine and fruit flavoring for liquid medicines. Eli Lilly & Company was one of the first pharmaceutical firms of its kind; it staffed a dedicated research department and put in place numerous quality-assurance measures. Lilly engaged in numerous philanthropic pursuits like personally funding the creation of Indianapolis’ children’s hospital which was later expanded by the state to become the Riley Children’s Hospital, he helped found the organization that became Indianapolis’ Chamber of Commerce and was the primary patron of Indiana’s branch of the Charity Organization Society.
He was among the pioneers of the concept of prescriptions, and helped form what became the common practice of giving addictive or dangerous medicines only to people who had first seen a physician. His company has grown into one of the largest and most influential pharmaceutical corporations in the world, and the largest corporation in Indiana.
Eli Lilly was born on July 8, 1838 in Baltimore, Maryland to Gustavus and Esther Lilly. His family was of Swedish descent and had moved to the low country of France before his great-grandparents immigrated to Maryland in 1789.
His son, Josiah Kirby Lilly, Sr. was also a pharmacutical industrialist, philanthropist and had become President of Eli Lilly & Company. Before retiring from the company in 1922, he began a partnership with Connaught Anti-toxin Laboratories, a Toronto firm, that would result in the creation of insulin a few years later. Josiah, Sr. was the recipient of the Remington Medal (recognize distinguished service on behalf of American pharmacy) in 1942.
Josiah, Sr. had two sons with Lilly Ridgley; Eli Lilly, Jr. and Josiah K. Lilly, Jr. Eli Lilly, Jr. was named for his grandfather and became a pharmaceutical industrialist, he was president of Eli Lilly & Company from 1932-1947. He founded the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana (now Indiana Landmarks). Josiah, Jr. was also a pharmaceutical industrialist, he was the last family member to run Eli Lilly & Company being president from 1948-1953. He was a collector of rare books and manuscripts and had donated 20,000 books and 17,000 manuscripts to Indiana University in the 1950s which formed the foundation of the Lilly Library in 1960. Josiah, Sr. along with his sons created the Lilly Endowment in 1938 to continue Eli Lilly’s legacy of philanthropy, which remains one of the largest private foundations in the United States.
Ruth Lilly was the daughter of Josiah K. Lilly, Jr. and Ruth Brinkmeyer. She was the sole heiress to the Eli Lilly & Company pharmaceutical fortune. Lilly made headlines in November 2002 when she pledged stock worth $100 million to the Poetry Foundation which is a tiny Chicago nonprofit organization that publishes Poetry Magazine, and a similarly large gift to Americans for the Arts in Washington. She gave directly instead of through a foundation, Lilly also supported health care, health education, youth programs, and historic preservation. Ruth Lilly has been alleged as the “Poe toaster” who places cognac and roses at Edgar Allan Poe‘s grave in Baltimore every year for his birthday; her death coincides with the sudden halt in this tradition.
Did you know Eli Lilly was an advocate of federal regulation of the pharmaceutical industry? Many of his suggested reforms were enacted into law in 1906, resulting in the creation of the Food and Drug Administration.
Check out Eli Lilly’s family tree and see how you may be related!