Richardson-Vicks Collection

1861-1979. 2 boxes (29 folders), 102 items.MSS. COLL. #55

NOTE: The numbers cited in parentheses throughout the inventory, e.g. 1:5, refer the researcher to the Series#:Folder# in which that name/topic will be found.


The Richardson-Vicks Collection consists primarily of materials relating to Vick Chemical Company, as well as a smaller number of items pertaining to the Richardson family. Vick Chemical was founded by Lunsford Richardson II and is best known for invention of the cold salve, Vicks VapoRub. The company stayed in the family until it was acquired by Proctor and Gamble in 1985.

The collection includes photographs, advertisements, scrapbooks, booklets, pamphlets, and financial materials. Researchers interested in business history, Vick Chemical Company history and operations, Greensboro history, advertising, the pharmaceutical industry, and the Richardson family will find this collection useful.

Arrangement: The Richardson-Vicks Collection is organized into ten series according to subject and document type. The series are: Correspondence, 1893; Legal, 1947; L. Richardson Drug Co.; Literary, 1861; Photographs, 1870-1960; Printed, 1906-1979; Richardson, S.; Richardson-Vicks, ca. 1898-1900; S.S. Lunsford Richardson, 1944; and Vick Chemical Co., 1901-1930. One book, The Creed of Presbyterians (1931), has been filed with the Rare Books (L87.48.57).

Provenance: The collection was donated to the museum as a long term loan in 1987. Many of the materials were formerly in an exhibit at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro. The accession number is L1987.48.57.

Processing: J. Stephen Catlett began processing the collection. The arrangement and finding aid were completed by Christine A. Dumoulin, Archives Assistant, in June 2004.


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

Lunsford 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. It was at that time he began inventing remedies for colds. In 1894 Vicks Magic Salve, a cure for croup was introduced. With a desire to start his own company, he sold his share of the company to his partner in 1898 and created the Lunsford Richardson Wholesale Drug Company. The company would eventually evolve into the Vick Chemical Company in 1911, dropping all other products and keeping the newly named “Vicks VapoRub.” Lunsford would continue playing 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 night-time 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 the Vick Company 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 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.

Biographical Sources: The following sources were used in compiling the biographical note: the booklets H. Smith Richardson: Ideas into Action (6:4) and The Early History of Richardson-Merrill (6:5), a biography of Lunsford Richardson II by Laurinda Carlson (GHM Vertical File), Smith Richardson Foundation website, Center for Creative Leadership website, and finding aids from the Henry Smith Richardson Papers and Richardson-Vicks, Inc., Records in the Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


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

The Vick Chemical Company records contain an interesting look at how the company evolved as a corporation and different aspects of its operations. Advertising includes photographs of billboards advertising Vicks VapoRub and an image of a drugstore with the pharmacist talking to a customer with several Vicks products displayed on the counter (5:1). There are also printed advertisements including cardboard counter ads, a coupon for a free sample of Vicks VapoRub, and a complimentary notebook given out by the company (10:1). There is also book from 1906 with an abstract on histology and bacteriology (6:1) and a memorandum book belonging to Smith Richardson containing information about various recipes and drugs for Vicks (7:1). Materials related to company operations include photographs such as an album showing a brief history of Vicks (5:3), a men’s volleyball game with the Vicks building in the background (5:4), and interior factory images showing mixing kettles and labeling machines (5:3). Other operational materials include a 1928 letter from export manager Hugh D. McKay written in Spanish appointing an agent to Bolivia (10:2) and a 1928 summer schedule for advertising Vicks products (10:4).

The family materials, though less voluminous, consist of photographs, printed materials, and literary items. The photographs include an image of H. Smith Richardson and his brother, Lunsford Jr. as children, a portrait of the Richardson women ca. 1900, and a family photo album (5:2). 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 (2:1). Other items are an 1861 sermon written by the Reverend J. Henry Smith and a 1909 Greensboro High School annual (6:7).


1. Correspondence. 1 folder (1 item). November 2, 1893.

This series contains a single letter from J. Henry Smith Richardson to his mother. The letter is very brief, but discusses some events at school, such as being sent to chapel for kicking a paper ball as he marched.

2. Legal. 1 folder (3 items). 1947.

The items in this series pertain to a lawsuit that was filed against the Richardson family and a trust fund. The family was sued by four benevolent agencies accusing them of defrauding their Presbyterian church. There is a resolution which cleared the family name of any wrong-doing, as well as two publications with information pertaining to the suit.

3. L. Richardson Drug Co. 1 folder (1 item).

This item is a two-sided letter written on Justice Drug Company stationary. The front is a form letter thanking individuals or companies for their business. The backside is a letter written to someone’s sister, possibly one of the Richardson’s.

4. Literary. 1 folder (1 item). December 5, 1861.

The item in this folder is a pamphlet called “A Sermon Delivered.” This sermon was delivered by the Rev. J. Henry Smith, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, on December 5, 1861.

5. Photographs. 4 folders (52 items). 1870-1960.

This folder contains images from the Vick Chemical Company and the Smith/Richardson family. The Vick Chemical images are of various advertising campaigns and of business operations. Some items of interest are a photograph of a young Dick Clark selling Vicks cough drops ca. 1960, advertising on a train station wall in West Union, Iowa, and several roadside billboards touting Vicks products for croup and cold relief (5:1). Folder 5:3 contains interesting images of Vicks company operations. Some of the older photos show women hand pouring the product into jars and men loading and unloading boxes of Vicks products onto their cars. There are also photos showing a more modern plant, including mixing kettles and labeling machines, the boxing room showing off the “Endless Belt System”, and a W.J. Mulligan running cartons of Vicks through a sealing machine (5:3).

The family photos consist of a photo album with photos of the Richardson/Smith families, the Richardson children, and an interior and exterior photo of the Richardson home (5:2). Some of the more interesting portraits include a photo of H.S. Richardson holding the 1 billionth jar of Vicks produced, the Vicks Chemical Company men’s baseball team, and Lunsford Richardson with the ladies of the Vicks plant (5:4).

6. Printed Materials. 11 folders (11 items). 1906-1979.

The printed materials consist of books, booklets, pamphlets, news clippings, and a high school annual. Several booklets relate the history not only of the Vicks company, but also of its owners. “The Early History of Richardson-Merrill” tells the history of Lunsford Richardson, the Smiths early life, and Vick Chemical Company, which eventually merged with the Merrill Company (6:5). Also included are Mary Kelly Watson Smith’s reminiscences about her mammy, Bibby Mosby (6:10), and “The Love that Never Failed,” an account about her life that includes transcripts of some of her letters (6:6).

7. Richardson, S. 1 folder (2 items).

The items in this series are two memorandum books, which contain various recipes and drugs compiled and used by the Vick Chemical Company. There are approximately 30 pages including recipes for Vicks Red Cross Drops, Chill Tonic, Toothache Drops, and Godfrey’s Cordial.

8. Richardson-Vicks. 2 folders (2 items). ca. 1898-1900.

This series consists of a financial receipt for either a purchase or services rendered from the Richardson-Fariss Company and an order book belonging to an R. R. Hill. The book kept track of orders and sales.

9. S.S. Lunsford Richardson. 2 folders (2 items). 1944.

This series contains two items related to the commission and the maiden voyage of the S.S. Lunsford Richardson. There is a photograph of the ship while it sailed out in 1944 (9:1) and a scrapbook detailing all of the events around its christening and send off (9:2).

10. Vick Chemical Co. 5 folders (27 items). 1901-1930.

The Vick Chemical Company was founded by Lunsford Richardson II in 1905. A check payable in 1901 may be one of the first payments received for the company (?). Folder 10:1 contains a group of advertisements used to promote the product, from cardboard counter ads and wax bags with the Vicks logo on it, to the story of two pixies called Blix and Blee and a coupon for a free sample of Vicks.


11Correspondence-- J. Henry Smith to his mother (Nov. 2, 1893)
21Legal-- Litigation -- Richardson Family Trust Fund (1947)
31L. Richardson Drug Co.-- Correspondence (n.d.)
41Literary-- "A Sermon Delivered" (1861) -- Rev. J. Henry Smith
51Photographs-- Advertising
2-- Family
3Photographs-- Operations
4-- Portraits
61Printed Materials-- Book -- Histology (1906)
2-- Book -- Creed of Presbyterians (1931)
3-- Booklet -- "Don't try to join this club" (n.d.)
4Printed Materials-- Booklet -- "H. Smith Richardson: Ideas into Action" (1979)
5-- Booklet -- "The Early History of Richardson-Merrill"
6-- Booklet -- "The Love that Never Failed" (1928)
7-- Booklet -- "The Story of Blix and Blee" (n.d.)
8Printed Materials-- Greensboro High School Annual (1909)
9-- Magazine -- Liberty (Dec. 14, 1940)
10-- News clippings
11Printed Materials-- Pamphlet -- "Some Meagre Recollections of Mammy" (1927)
12-- Pamphlet -- "Women of Greensboro -1861-1865" (1919) 
71Richardson, S. -- Memorandum
81Richardson-Vicks-- Financial -- Receipt
2-- Order Book
91S.S. Lunsford Richardson-- Photograph (1944)
2-- Scrapbook
101Vick Chemical Co.-- Advertisements
2-- Correspondence
3-- Financial
4Vick Chemical Co.-- Publication Order
5-- Scrapbooks

Index to the Richardson-Vicks Collection

NOTE: The numbers following the name/subject entry — e.g. 1:1 — indicate in which Series#:Folder# (or, if no “:”, Series only) that name/topic can be found.

Advertising: 5:1, 10:1, 10:2, 10:4

Carlson, Laurinda Richardson: 5:2
Clark, Dick: 5:1

Greensboro High School (Annual): 6:7

L. Richardson Drug Company: 3:1

McKay, Hugh D.: 10:2
Mosby, Bibby: 6:10

Preyer, William Y.: 5:4
Prickett, Lynn Richardson: 5:2

Richardson, H. Smith: 5:2, 5:4, 6:3-5, 7:1
Richardson, Lunsford Jr.: 5:2
Richardson, Lunsford Sr.: 5:4
Richardson, Mary Smith: 5:2
Richardson-Fariss Company: 8:1

Smith, Egbert Watson: 5:1, 6:2
Smith, Rev. J. Henry: 4:1, 6:6
Smith, Mary Kelly Watson: 5:2, 6:6
S.S. Lunsford Richardson: 9:1, 9:2

Vick Chemical Company:
Advertising: 5:1, 10:1, 10:2, 10:4
Financial: 10:3
History: 6:4, 6:5
Operations: 5:3,7:1, 8:2, 10:1-5