Darmstadt and New York: This is how Georg Merck became rich in the USA with medicines

This article is an acquisition from Capital, Capital's premium digital offering.

Darmstadt and New York: This is how Georg Merck became rich in the USA with medicines

This article is an acquisition from Capital, Capital's premium digital offering. For you as a stern PLUS subscriber, it is available exclusively here for ten days. It will then be available again exclusively for Capital subscribers at www.capital.de/plus. Like stern, the business magazine Capital belongs to RTL Deutschland.

The black and white photo shows a spacious hall decorated with stucco with a balustrade, crystal vessels and flower bouquets. Medical devices are displayed in round glass showcases. Today you would say stylish, fancy, more of a showroom than a pharmacy. Georg Merck caused a stir with his first “Pharmacy” opening in New York in 1897. At the end of the 19th century, pharmacies were not pretty shops that invited people to marvel and look.

And so the resistance quickly arose. Merck's most important customers, the German pharmacists in New York and the surrounding area, were angry about their supplier's advance into their own business. Even in their home town of Darmstadt, where Merck was based, not every family member liked the opulence. After two years, Georg Merck bowed to pressure from pharmacists and closed his elegant pharmacy on a New York boulevard.

A setback, but only one episode in the history of the family business Merck on its way to becoming a global pharmaceutical company. It is a story full of adventure, with people starting a new world, with economic setbacks, separations and disappointments. Merck is now the oldest pharmaceutical company in the world, 356 years old and family-owned for the 13th generation. It can hardly be more traditional. In contrast, companies like Bayer or BASF, with around 160 years of history, are teenagers.

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