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Sterling Products Co. | Sterling Drug

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Sterling Products Co. in Wheeling

In 1901, William Erhard Weiss and Albert H. Diebold established the Neuralgyline Company in Wheeling. Within a few years, Weiss and Diebold realized that expansion required more product lines and that this would be best obtained by acquisition. This policy continued throughout the life of the organization. In 1909, the Neuralgyline Company purchased the Sterling Remedy Company. In 1913, Weiss and Diebold established intangible assets (trademarks, patents, and copyrights) and tangible assets (offices and plants). 

-From the trade publication, "Universal Bulletin," Universal Portland Cement Co., No. 120, May 1914, pg. 97

[...] A modern office and manufacturing building... has been erected at Wheeling, West Virginia, for the Neuralgyline Co. It is of five stories and a basement, 110 feet wide by 120 feet long, and of reinforced concrete for frame and floors. The front two return ends are trimmed in white with buff panels, presenting a clean and pleasing appearance.

The building was started in August, 1913, and completed in March, 1914. Much of the 6,500 barrels of Universal Portland cement was used in the winter months, clearly demonstrating the practicability of concreting in cold weather.[...]

For the Neuralgyline building, R. R. Kitchen & Co., was the general contractor and C. W. Bates, the architect, both of Wheeling, West Virginia.

By 1914, the company had set-up proprietary agencies for overseas trading. Weiss and Diebold changed the name of the company in 1917 from Neuralgyline, which was difficult to say, to Sterling Products.

Because supplies of drugs from Germany were cutoff by the Allied blockade in World War I, Sterling Products established the Winthrop Company to manufacture the active ingredients in their products. By the end of World War I the Sterling product line consisted of Neuralgyline, Danderine (absorbed in 1906), Casarets, and California Syrup of Figs (absorbed in 1912). At the end of the war, German-owned Bayer had been seized by the U.S. government along with other properties. Sterling offered $5.3 million to acquire Bayer's holdings in the U.S. and became the owner of the Bayer aspirin patent. 

After acquiring Bayer's patent, Sterling Product established a separate subsidiary, the Bayer Company, to market Bayer Aspirin. During the 1930s, the Winthrop Co. made Sterling Product a leader in the pharmaceutical field with products as Luminal, the original phenobarbitol; Salvarsan and Neo-Salvarsan, the first effective drugs in the treatment of syphilis; Prontosil, the first of the sulfa drugs; and Atabrine, the synthetic antimalarial that replaced quinine during World War II. The company expanded overseas in 1938, and eventually operated about seventy plants in about forty countries.

Under trading conditions arising from the outbreak of World War II in Europe, agreements Sterling Product held with IG Farbenindustrie of Germany were declared to be in breach of the anti-trust laws, and in December 1941, Weiss and Diebold had to resign. Weiss, returning to Wheeling, WV, died in an automobile accident in September 1942. Diebold retired to Palm Beach, FL, and died in 1964.

Sterling continued to acquire smaller companies early to mid 20th century. By 1942, the use of Sterling Products as a name was confusing and could not be licensed to conduct business in some states so the name of the company was changed to Sterling Drug. In the words of the 1948 U.S. Federal Trade Commission report on the Merger Movement, the company had "pursued a consistent policy of acquiring competitors, companies engaged in auxiliary lines of activity, and firms in extraneous lines. In 1926, the interests of the Sterling Products Co. incorporated the American Home Products Co. By 1948, American Home Products Co. had acquired nearly 30 formerly independent companies, 32 purchased after 1940. Brand acquired included Anacin, Bi So Dol, Kolynos, Wyeth Chemical Co., W. H. Hill Co.’s Cascara, O. H. Jadwin Co., St. Jacob’s Oil Co., Whitehall Pharmacal Co., Kolynis Co., Manhattan Medicine Co. including its Atwood Bitters, John Wyeth & Brother, Old English Wax, Three-In-One Oil, Clapp's Baby Food, Duff's Baking Mix, G. Washington's Coffee, and Chef Boy-Ar-Dee Spaghetti Dinner.

In 1967, Sterling Drug also acquired Lehn & Fink, the makers of Lysol, Resolve, and d-CON.  At least 130 companies were acquired directly or indirectly between 1902 and 1986.

Sterling Drug, Inc. was purchased by Eastman Kodak, Inc. in 1988 and in 1994 the assets of Sterling Drug, Inc. were sold with Sanofi purchasing Sterling's ethical business; Nycomed of Norway purchasing the diagnostic imaging; and SmithKline Beecham purchasing the worldwide over-the-counter pharmaceutical business.

More commonly known as the Sterling Products Co. or Sterling Drug Building, the original home office for the company was demolished between 2011 and 2012. 


➤ Corner 19th street and Lane F, between Jacob and Wood St. 


Sterling Product Co. Building  |  Sterling Drug Co.

Additional Library Resources

The Aspirin Wars: Money, Medicine, and 100 Years of Rampant Competition, Charles C. Mann and Mark L. Plummer, 1991. Non-fiction Stacks, circulating (Additional copy in Wheeling Room). Call #: 381.456153137 M315a
➤ Archives & Special Collections: "Photographs Illustrating Works of Charles W. Bates and William H. Cook, Architects and Engineers," date unknown. Wheeling Heritage Collection. Non-circulating. Make appointment to view. 

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