July 4, 1819, Wilmington, Del., U.S.
died Oct. 25, 1900, Brooklyn, N.Y.
chemist and pharmaceutical manufacturer who developed
methods of making pure and reliable drugs and founded a
company to manufacture them.
During the four years when
Squibb served on various ships as a U.S. Navy medical officer, he
observed the poor quality of medicines supplied to the Navy. He
persuaded the Navy to manufacture their own drugs instead of contracting
for them from the lowest bidder. In 1851, he was appointed to Brooklyn
Naval Hospital. He set up a
laboratory there and built the first still for
making anesthetic ether. The ether was heated by steam passing through a
coil rather than by open flame, which had been dangerous. Squibb did not
patent this process or any of his later discoveries. Instead, he
published his design in 1856 in
American Journal of
Between 1852 and 1857, he discovered processes for making chloroform,
fluid extracts, bismuth salts, and other preparations.
After Squibb had resigned from the
Navy, Dr. Richard S. Satterlee, surgeon general of the U.S. Army,
suggested that Squibb start a
of his own to supply the Army with reliable drugs. After borrowing
$1,300 from a friend, he set up a
in Brooklyn in 1858. Less than a month later, it burned to the ground in
an ether explosion. Squibb saved the records of his experiments but was
badly burned in the process.
A year later, his
had been rebuilt and he sent out a circular
advertising 38 preparations. By 1883, he was
manufacturing 324 products and selling them all over the world.
His drugs and medicines were in
great demand in the Civil War. After the war, he campaigned for better
enforcement of the laws regulating the import of drugs. He helped revise
the Pharmacopoeia, the basic code book of American
From 1882 until his death, he also wrote and published Ephemeris,
a journal of practical advice and new discoveries, to update the
His inventions include the
automatic zero burette and a specific gravity apparatus. In 1892, his
two sons joined the firm, which became E.R.
Squibb & Sons.
labeled with '& Sons' are post-Civil War and post 1892.
provided a medical pannier for field use to the U.S. Army with 52
standard medicines all packaged in Japanned Tin containers at a cost of
$100.00 per pannier. This item allowed the field surgeon access to
necessary medicines protected in a bound chest and packaged in
unbreakable tins. Large numbers of surviving tins clearly illustrate the
popularity of this form of packaging.
Bottles, however, remained a popular form of
container for medicines throughout the war. The Army used both plain
civilian bottles and the rarer Hospital Department bottle.
From the Reynolds Library:
Edward Robinson Squibb
received his medical degree in 1845, and served as a naval surgeon from
1847-1857, where he was eventually became assistant director of the U.S.
Naval Laboratory in New York. While in the service, he was exposed to
the negative effects that impure medicines and drugs of variable quality
have on both patients and the efficiency of the medical department. As
biographer Lawrence Blochman notes, “Uniformity and purity became a
lifetime passion with Dr. Squibb, a crusade which was to embrace all
pharmacy” (Blochman viii). In 1856, Squibb invented an ether still
apparatus that allowed for the production of better quality ether of
more consistent strength and purity. His new process for distilling
ether with live steam also made its use much safer, since an open flame
was no longer needed to process the highly volatile chemical (Blochman
vii-viii). The effectiveness of anesthesia was greatly improved by
Squibb’s device. This was very fortunate to have by the war’s beginning.
Squibb left the navy in 1857 and set up a private
pharmaceutical laboratory in Brooklyn, New York. Though he had already
completed his military service before Civil War, Squibb did play an
important part of the war effort by supplying pure, quality ether,
chloroform and a variety of other medicines to the U.S. Army. He was
also responsible for designing a new kind of light-weight pannier box
(or medicine chest) which was used to distribute medicines to doctors
working in the field (Smith 13-14). Essential to the establishment of
Squibb’s lab as one of the primary army pharmaceutical suppliers was his
good working relationship with military medical leaders. Chief purveyor
for the U.S. Army, Richard S. Satterlee (1789-1880), impressed with the
quality and skill of Squibb’s work, was responsible for many of the
orders and contracts Squibb received from the army. After the war’s
start, Satterlee requested that Squibb expand his laboratory to fill
more of the army needs. Adequately convinced that the war would not be
over in just a few months like many thought, Squibb re-located to a
newly constructed two-story facility, and from there he supplied about
one-twelfth of the army medical stores (Flannery 106). However, the army
continued to need more and more supplies, and it was not long before
government laboratories were set up to fill in the gaps of private
industry. Now Squibb and other pharmaceutical manufacturers had
competition to face. But in the end, government labs only supplemented
private suppliers instead of destroying them as some feared (Flannery
114). In fact, the Civil War helped Squibb start what became a very
successful pharmaceutical company, the Squibb Corporation, which is
still thriving today. Also during the war, Squibb authored many articles
in pharmacy journals, especially the American
Journal of Pharmacy. The Reynolds Historical Library holds all
war-year volumes of this publication.
After the Civil War, Squibb’s company emerged as a
leader in the industry, a status it continued to hold after Squibb’s
death in 1900. In addition to his highly-regarded business, Edward
Squibb was also known for what Lawrence Blochman calls his “rugged
idealism”. He was committed to pure, quality pharmaceutics manufactured
and distributed to high professional and ethical standards. Never
patenting his discoveries and inventions, Squibb held onto the notion
that anyone who wished to use them to benefit mankind should have the
ability. And he took up the cause of revising and completely revamping
the United States
Pharmacopoeia, a standard reference in the field. When the American
Medical Association rejected his suggestion, Squibb founded a
publication that could live up to his standards, An
ephemeris of materia medica, pharmacy, therapeutics and collateral
information. Although his two
sons were named co-editors, most of the articles within this journal
were written by Squibb himself. Distributed to professionals free of
charge, this journal evaluated medicines, apparatuses and techniques,
and was critical of greedy quacks (Florey xx; Blochman viii-ix). Issues
were published every two months in order to keep professionals abreast
of new developments throughout the year (Blochman 299). The Reynolds
Historical Library holds the first two bound volumes of Squibb’s
publication from 1882/1883 and 1884/1885.
Color information on
Hosp. Dept. bottles
Civil War Medicine Containers
in the Echols' collection with Squibb bottles