Cough Drops

Cough drops have been around since 1000 BC. Early versions of cough drops were opiates. In America, the first cough drops were made by the Smith Brothers. Their picture on the cough drop package made them famous. The Smith family immigrated to Canada from England and then to New York.

The father of the Smith Brothers bought a cough drop recipe for five dollars. The drops were sold in a glass jar. Drugstores began to copy the drops so the Smith Brothers began to place the drops in packages with their faces on the box. The package was trademarked with the name Trade appearing under the photo of one brother (William) and Mark under the photo of the other brother (Andrew). From that time, Trade and Mark became the nicknames of the Smith Brothers. This was the first time a candy-type product was ever placed in a package.

While the story of cough drops may not seem to be that significant of beginnings, think about the change in society the cough drop package brought about. Cough drops, like many consumables, were sold out of jars, boxes, and barrels. When a person had a cough, they would reach into the jar and grab a handful of cough drops. By doing so, they were also likely to spread their illness to others. When the Smith Brothers packaged their cough drops, they put an end to this inadvertent contamination. While that wasn’t their intention with the packaging, it did make a major change in how consumable items were sold.

William Smith was the more community-minded of the two brothers. He was generous with his wealth and unknown to his brother saw that he also shared his wealth with others. William was a strong prohibitionist while his brother was the opposite.

The Smith Brothers brand of cough drops is still available today, over 170 years after its founding. The packaging still contains the likeness of both brothers.

Some beginnings are accidental. We would never think of buying a medicinal product from a jar today. Over time our concept of acceptable packaging has changed, often due to reasons that we have forgotten.

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“True love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops.” – William Goldman (Author and screenwriter)

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