Our founder, James Smith, emigrated from Fife, Scotland to Canada in 1831, then onto the U.S. where he eventually opened a New York City confectioner called, James Smith & Sons Sweet Shop.
In 1847, James met Sly Hawkins, a peddler who sold him a recipe for cough formula drops. The real big idea was to tweak the recipe to include candy-like flavors. Glass jars full of the new drops when atop the shop’s counter and advertisements went out in the city newspapers to draw New Yorkers in to try them. Success came quickly!
In 1866, James Smith died and his sons, William and Andrew, took over the thriving family business and continued to grow it quickly.
To prevent drug stores from selling generic versions the company began packaging drops in branded boxes in 1872. To distinguish their package from imitators, the bearded brothers created a logo featuring their portraits and stamped it on their boxes.
When trademarked in 1877, the word “Trade” appeared under the picture of William and the word “Mark” under Andrew’s. It followed that the brothers became known as Trade and Mark, nicknames that stick to this day.
Of the brothers, William Smith was the more extroverted, community-minded and a prohibitionist. He was known for such quirks as keeping financial records on the backs of used envelopes. He ran for public office several times and was a generous local philanthropist who assessed his brother Andrew for half of all charitable donations whether he knew of them or not. Andrew, on the other hand, was known as the more amiable brother.
The company’s staunch defense of its trademark made the Smiths’ faces among the most famous in America, the subject of editorials, comics, and cultural references.
Andrew Smith died in 1895, and William continued as company president until he died in 1913. William was succeeded by his son, Arthur, who expanded the company by adding menthol drops in 1922, cough syrup in 1926, and wild cherry drops 1948. Like his grandfather founder, Arthur had two sons, William and Robert, who would go on to be the fourth generation to run the company.
In 2016, Lanes Brands—another family business—acquired The Smith Brothers and is proud to continue its legacy of quality and historical significance America’s first cough drop. Lanes combines deep knowledge in traditional herbal remedies with the latest in manufacturing technology to deliver effective, and consistently high quality health care products across the United States. Visit the Lanes Brands website here.