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Pfizer Inc: Exploring Our History
1900–1950

1900

Pfizer files an official certificate of incorporation in the state of New Jersey, with authorized capital of $2 million divided into 20,000 shares of $100 each. Pfizer would remain a privately held company until June 22, 1942, when 240,000 shares of new common stock were offered to the public

1905

Emile Pfizer, Charles Pfizer's youngest son, is appointed President at a special board meeting. He serves as President from 1906 to 1941 and briefly as Chairman in 1941. He is the last member of the Pfizer/Erhart family to be actively involved with the company.

1906

At the age of 82, Charles Pfizer dies while vacationing at his Newport, Rhode Island estate. A tribute to Pfizer in The New York Tribune notes that "by bringing to his task a thorough German technical education, great industry, and determination, he successfully met all difficulties and each year expanded his business."

Company sales exceed $3 million.

1914

The Board of Directors creates the position of Chairman and elects John Anderson to that post. Anderson, who had joined Pfizer in 1873 as a 16-year-old office boy, would remain Chairman until 1929.

1919

Pfizer chemist James Currie and his assistant, Jasper Kane, successfully pioneer the mass production of citric acid from sugar through mold fermentation—an achievement that eventually frees Pfizer from dependency on European citrus growers.

Spurred by this invention, Kane goes on to develop a new deep-tank fermentation method using molasses rather than refined sugar as raw material—the process that will ultimately unlock the secret for large-scale production of penicillin.

1924

Charles Pfizer & Co. turns 75 years old. A celebration at the Brooklyn plant, which has 306 employees, marks the milestone.

1928

Alexander Fleming discovers the antibiotic properties of the penicillin mold, an event destined to make medical history and to change the course of Pfizer´s future.

1929

On January 10, 1929, John Anderson announces he is stepping down as chairman of the board. William Erhart (right) is named the new chairman, Emile Pfizer continues to serve as president, and John Anderson's son, George, becomes senior vice president.

1936

Doctor Richard Pasternack develops a fermentation-free method for producing ascorbic acid, vitamin C. After building a new plant and initiating a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week production schedule, Pfizer becomes the world's leading producer of vitamin C.

Encouraged by this success, Pfizer pushes ahead in 1938 with production of vitamin B-2, or riboflavin, and eventually develops a vitamin mix that includes riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, and iron. From vitamin B-12, the company moves on to vitamin A, and by the late 1940s, Pfizer will become the established leader in the manufacture of vitamins.

1939

Pfizer succeeds so well in the production of citric acid by fermenting sugar that a pound of citric acid, which had cost $1.25 in 1919, tumbles to 20¢, and Pfizer is widely recognized as a leader in fermentation technology.

1941

Pfizer responds to an appeal from the United States Government to expedite the manufacture of penicillin to treat Allied soldiers fighting in World War II. Of the companies pursuing mass production of penicillin, Pfizer alone uses fermentation technology.

In a risky maneuver, Pfizer's senior management invests millions of dollars, putting their own assets as Pfizer stockholders at stake, to buy the equipment and facilities needed for this novel process of deep-tank fermentation. Pfizer purchases a nearby vacant ice plant, and employees work around the clock to convert it and perfect the complex production process. In just four months, Pfizer is producing five times more penicillin than originally anticipated. Penicillin is a turning point in human history—the first real defense against bacterial infection.

1944

Using deep-tank fermentation, Pfizer is successful in its efforts to mass-produce penicillin and becomes the world's largest producer of the "miracle drug." Most of the penicillin that goes ashore with Allied forces on D-Day is made by Pfizer.  The company's contribution to the war effort is heralded nationwide and earns Pfizer the coveted Army-Navy "E" Award on April 17, 1943.

1945

George A. Anderson (right) becomes Pfizer's chairman of the board. John L. Smith fills the office of President.

1949

As the mid-point of the 20th century nears, Pfizer celebrates its 100th anniversary and a new generation of leaders takes the helm. John McKeen becomes president, George Anderson retires, and John L. Smith takes his place as chairman of the board. Pfizer scientists begin an intensive quest to find new organisms to fight disease.

1950

Following the death of John L. Smith, John E. McKeen becomes chairman of the board.

Terramycin® (oxytetracycline), a broad-spectrum antibiotic that is the result of the Company's first discovery program, becomes the first pharmaceutical sold in the United States under the Pfizer label. Pfizer begins expansion into overseas markets and the International Division is created.

Terramycin also marks the beginning of the Pfizer Pharmaceutical Sales Force. Upon its approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration on March 15, 1950, eight specially trained Pfizer pharmaceutical salesmen waiting for word at pay phones across the nation move into action to get inventory to wholesalers and to educate physicians about Pfizer's first proprietary pharmaceutical product. These men are the vanguard of a sales and marketing organization that will come to be recognized as the best in the industry.

Pfizer Inc: Exploring Our History
1900–1950

Pfizer Annual Report

Pfizer Annual Report

Discover how innovation underscores Pfizer’s commitments and achievements.