In 1849, and with only US$2,500 borrowed from Charles Pfizer's father, cousins Charles Pfizer and Charles Erhart, young entrepreneurs from Germany, opened Charles Pfizer & Company as a fine-chemicals business in Brooklyn, New York.
Their first product was a palatable form of santonin — an antiparasitic used to treat intestinal worms, a common affliction in mid-19th century America. Combining their skills, Pfizer, a chemist, and Erhart, a confectioner, blended santonin with almond-toffee flavouring and shaped it into a candy cone. The "new" santonin was an immediate success and the company was launched.
You can read more about the history of the company in the US here.
Our History in Australia
May 21, 1956 is acknowledged as Pfizer Australia’s foundation day. But the idea for Pfizer Australia took shape a year earlier, when manufacturer FH Faulding & Co, based in Adelaide, sent two representatives, Bill Scammel and Keith Johnson, around the world in search of expansion opportunities.
The journey included a stopover in New York, where Scammel and Johnson met representatives from Pfizer Inc. During discussions, Pfizer quickly recognised the merits of establishing a presence in Australia and agreed to an agency arrangement with Faulding.
The Adelaide firm would be responsible for manufacturing Pfizer’s Terramycin-dominated product range, while Pfizer established a promotions unit at Chalmers Street, Redfern under the guidance of Ron Mayfield, an English pharmacist. Arthur Davis, a lawyer from Henry Davis Yorke & Co was responsible for incorporating Pfizer Australia on 19 April 1956, while Mr Newman from the Bank of New South Wales (now Westpac) provided the finance. Price Waterhouse’s Mr Renshaw looked after recruitment, which included Bruce Langtry, the company’s first chief accountant.
By July 1956, a medical director, two employees responsible for handling sample storage, along with two secretaries, had joined Mr Langtry.
Initially, Pfizer Australia’s structure was entwined with Faulding. Then, Pfizer Australia obtained its first promotional fee, which was included in the product price structure negotiated with Faulding. This enabled Pfizer Australia to pay its own way for the first time.
Apart from Terramycin, there were a range of Over the Counter (OTC) products, which were mainly vitamins, plus an animal health range, also based on Terramycin.
Pfizer Australia quickly earned its financial stripes. In 1956, Fauldings’ lodged its first bulk order with Pfizer New York for Terramycin and Oxytetracycline. At the time, the US$1.4 million was considered a huge order - to put this in context, Pfizer’s worldwide sales were then about US$150 million.
Pfizer Australia’s current headquarters in West Ryde, NSW, opened on 1 December 1959.
That date also proved significant for Pfizer Australia on another front. The company negotiated to take full control of its business from agent FH Faulding & Co and operate as a fully-fledged player in the Australian pharmaceutical market.