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University Archives and History

The Richardson-Vicks Collection

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About Richardson-Vicks

The Richardson Family has a long history in Greensboro and was involved in both civic and business ventures.


ImageLunsford Richardson II (1854-1919) was born in Johnson County and grew up on the family plantation, Parker Heights. He graduated with honors from Davidson College and married Mary Lynn Smith on August 28, 1884. Richardson began in the pharmaceutical industry early, first owning a drug store in Selma, North Carolina, before moving to Greensboro. In 1891, he and John Fariss bought the W.C. Porter drug store. At that time, he began inventing remedies for colds, and in 1894 Vicks Magic Salve, a cure for croup, was introduced. With a desire to start his own company, he sold his share in Richardson & Fariss to his partner in 1898 and created the Lunsford Richardson Wholesale Drug Company. The company became Vick’s Family Remedies in 1905 and evolved into the Vick Chemical Co. by 1911, dropping all other products and keeping the newly named “Vicks VapoRub.” Lunsford would continue to play an active role in the family business, enlisting the help of his two sons. He passed away in 1919, leaving the company to Smith and Lunsford Jr.


Henry Smith Richardson (1885-1972) was the first of five children born to Lunsford and Mary Richardson. Smith worked early on in his father’s drug store, washing bottles and delivering pills and tonics to customers. He became a traveling salesman around the age of 14. After spending time at Davidson College and the U.S. Naval Academy, Richardson took a position in New York City as a nighttime railroad office worker, conductor, and eventually, a salesman. In 1907, he headed for home in Greensboro to become the sales manager for the Vick Company. Through his salesmanship, he touted the wonders of Vicks VapoRub and eventually recommended the change in company name to the Vick Chemical Company. He was also responsible for the success of international sales to South America and Europe.


Smith was also interested in business management and developing stable, productive companies that would withstand economic hardship and change. His dream of an institution to develop “creative leadership” was realized in 1970 with the establishment of the Center for Creative Leadership. The Smith Richardson Foundation provided the initial underpinning of the center and continues to generously support it. Smith passed away in 1972.


Lunsford Richardson Jr. (1891-1953), known as “Lump,” was also involved in the family business. He attended public schools, was a student at Davidson College, and studied at Eastman’s Business College in Poughkeepsie, NY. He first worked for Vick Chemical in 1913 as an office manager and assistant sales and advertising manager. By 1917, he was made a partner. He served as president from 1929 until 1938, when he joined the board of directors, eventually chairing it.


Lump was also involved in civic activities, supporting the L. Richardson Memorial Hospital and serving on the Board of Trustees at Davidson College. During World War I, he served as an enlisted man in Naval Aviation. Prior to his death, he was the director in the National Re-Insurance Company in New York and was formerly vice president of Richardson Realty Co. He died in 1953 of a heart attack.


About the collection

The types of materials in this collection include correspondence, photographs, company and family histories, and printed materials such as books, pamphlets and advertisements. The bulk of the items relate to the Vick Chemical Co., including its operations and corporate history. The family materials are mostly related to Lunsford Richardson and his two sons, H. Smith and Lunsford Richardson Jr.


The Vick Chemical Co. records show how the company evolved as a corporation and provide a glimpse into different aspects of its operations. Advertising includes photographs of billboards promoting Vicks VapoRub and an image of a drugstore with several Vicks products displayed on the counter as a pharmacist speaks with a customer. Printed advertisements include cardboard counter ads, a coupon for a free sample of Vicks VapoRub, and a complimentary notebook given out by the company. A book from 1906 presents an abstract on histology and bacteriology and two memorandum books belonging to Lunsford Richardson contain recipes that he presumably developed. Materials related to operations include an album showing the various company buildings, a photograph of a men’s volleyball game with the Milton St. plant in the background, and factory interiors showing mixing kettles and labeling machines.

The family materials, though less voluminous, consist of photographs and printed materials. The photographs include an image of H. Smith Richardson and his brother Lunsford Jr. as children, a portrait of the Richardson women circa 1900, and a Smith family photo album. Also included is interesting litigation pertaining to a lawsuit brought on by several benevolent agencies accusing the Richardson family of defrauding the Presbyterian Church; they were eventually found innocent. Other items are an 1861 sermon given by the Reverend J. Henry Smith and a 1909 Greensboro High School annual.



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