Legend of the Smith Bros.

William and Andrew helped mix the family secret formula in their father’s kitchen and busily sold the product in the streets of Poughkeepsie, NY.

Fig 1: Store, Poughkeepsie, NY
Fig 2: Check dated 1900



William and Andrew were sons of James Smith who moved to Poughkeepsie from St. Armand, Quebec in 1847 to establish a restaurant. Though James was a fine carpenter by trade, he was an even better candy maker and a businessman. The story of the birth of the first cough drop is a good example. As that story goes, a journeyman stopped at the Smith restaurant and gave James the formula for a delicious and effective cough candy. James saw a need for such a product in the cold, windswept Hudson Valley and immediately mixed up a batch on his kitchen stove.

The Demand for "Cough Candy"

The Drops were a quick success and demand for the “cough candy” grew fast up and down the river. Only a few years later, in 1852, the firm’s first advertisement appeared in the Poughkeepsie paper, inviting all “afflicted with hoarseness, cough or colds” to test it. Young William and Andrew were active in the new business from the start. They helped mix the family secret formula in their father’s kitchen and busily sold the product in the streets of Poughkeepsie.

The Fast Growing Business

The two boys inherited the fast growing business on the father’s death in 1866, and the company officially became known as Smith Brothers®. As sales grew throughout the Hudson Valley, this success was met with a whole flurry of imitators- “Schmitt Brothers”, “Smythe Sisters” and even other “Smith Brothers” appeared with imitative product. The real Smith Brothers, by this time having long, flowing beards, decided to place their own pictures on their product packaging, which consisted of glass bowls for a counter display and small envelopes into which the shopkeeper counted the Smith Brothers® Cough Drops for each sale.

By chance, the word “Trade” appeared under the picture of William and the word “Mark” under that of Andrew. Thus, it happened by a mere coincidence that the famous Smith Brothers’ trademark was born and the Smith Brothers became known to generations of Americans as Trade and Mark.

 The glass bowls and enveloped then in use had definite limitations. For one thing, the Smith brothers could not be sure that only genuine Smith Brothers® Cough Drops would be sold in envelopes which bore their pictures.

The Iconic Packaging

So in 1872 the brothers developed a package bearing their likenesses, which was filled under their own personal supervision. This package was one of the first “factory filled” packages ever developed. Andrew (Mark) died in 1895 but William (Trade) continued as President of Smith Brothers almost up to his death in 1913.

The Rest is History

He was succeeded by his son, Arthur G. Smith, under whose direction the company continued to prosper. Menthol Cough Drops were added in 1922, a cough syrup in 1926 and the famous Smith Brothers® Wild Cherry Flavor in 1948. Arthur had two sons, William W. II and Robert, who carried on the fourth generations of Smiths in the company. The family continued as sole owners of the Company until 1964. Smith Brothers was acquired in 1977 from Warner Lambert. All manufacturing and shipping are handled from our Chicago office.

Here at The Smith Brothers Co., we think that William and Andrew would be proud to know that the company they founded over a century ago remains a leader in health and wellness innovation still today.