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In 1849, Charles Erhart and Charles Pfizer founded a chemicals company in the United States that would grow to become the world’s largest pharmaceutical corporation in the early 2000s. Headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, the company introduced borax, camphor, iodine, and tartic and citric acid to the American marketplace. Pfizer’s first medicinal was a reformulation of santonin, an extract of Levant Wormseed, used as an antiparasitic to treat intestinal worms. Erhart, a confectioner, blended bitter-tasting santonin with almond-toffee flavoring, shaping it into a candy cone for palatability, and “new santonin” became a success for the company.

Early company growth was deeply intertwined with three wars. Pfizer increased the production of products essential for treating the wounded during the Civil War. These included tartic acid (laxative/skin coolant), ...

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