Font Size: AAA

Lunsford Richardson (1854-1919)

Inventor of Vicks VapoRub (formally known as Vicks Croup and Pneumonia Salve), Lunsford Richardson was born on a farm near Selma, North Carolina.  During the Civil War, Richardson’s father served in the Confederate Army. Richardson witnessed the devastating economic effects of the war on North Carolina’s economy and dreamed of establishing a business that would produce economic revenue for the state.

After graduating from Davidson College, Richardson became a principal of Little River Academy in Cumberland County. With a desire to fulfill a childhood dream of establishing and embarking on a risky, entrepreneurial adventure that might help his home state prosper, Richardson switched careers and became a druggist.  He used his savings to buy a drugstore in Selma and began mixing home remedies like liver pills, headache powders, and liniment. 

Many times, as the saying goes, necessity breeds invention, and such was the case in Richardson’s life and for the beginning of Vick’s Vapo Rub.  Richardson’s three children were simultaneously sick.  So the druggist mixed menthol, camphor, oil of eucalyptus, and other ingredients with petroleum to create a salve.  He then applied it to the children’s chests and their breathing became easier.  His concoction had worked, and Richardson started marketing his successful remedy.  Richardson named his product after his brother-in-law, Vick, for the name was easy to remember.

Richardson’s contribution to medicine is evident in the continued popularity of the healing salve. Richardson’s profits enabled him, an active church member, to contribute to the welfare of African Americans.  For his entrepreneurship and philanthropy, a World War II Liberty ship and a local hospital were named in his memory.


“Getting To Know…” Carolina Country April 2010, 18; North Carolina Museum of History (accessed July 22, 2010); Richardson-Vicks, Inc., Records, 1885-1995 (accessed July 22, 2010).

By Adrienne Dunn, North Carolina History Project

See Also:

Related Categories: Entrepreneurship, Civil War, Business and Industry
Timeline: 1836-1865 , 1866-1915 , 1916-1945
Region: Statewide

© 2016 John Locke Foundation | 200 West Morgan St., Raleigh, NC 27601, Voice: (919) 828-3876
Website design & development by DesignHammer Media Group, LLC. Building Smarter Websites.