Pharmaceutical Promotions collection, 1925-1965

Overview of the Collection

Oregon Health & Science University
Pharmaceutical Promotions collection
1925-1965 (inclusive)
2.36 linear feet, (3 containers)
Collection Number
Revolutions in medical and pharmaceutical technologies during the mid-20th century not only greatly improved the quality of care provided by doctors and medical personnel, but also provided pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to improve their advertising and market campaigns in new and uniquely visual ways. The Pharmaceutical Promotions collection spans from 1925 to 1965, and includes pharmaceutical promotional prints, advertisements, magazine clippings, and visual materials that serve as a representation of the concentrated mass-marketing and advertisement campaigns of several contemporary pharmaceutical companies.
Oregon Health & Science University, Historical Collections & Archives
OHSU Historical Collections & Archives
Oregon Health & Science University
3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Rd. MC:LIB
Portland, OR
Telephone: 5034945587
Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions on access. This collection is open to the public.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

In general, much of the historical context of the artwork represented in this collection can be found within the artwork itself, or within the texts that accompany these records as biographical/subject summaries of the artwork, mostly in the context of the figures, time periods, or physical environments depicted. A brief history of the major pharmaceutical companies represented in this collection can be found below.

Beginning as an annex to the family kitchen, Abbott Alkaloidal Company was formally incorporated in 1900 and quickly grew to occupy a three-story brick building in Ravenswood, a neighborhood of Chicago's northside. The company became Abbott Laboratories in 1914, reflecting an expansion from the realm of alkaloids and active principles to the manufacturing of synthetic drugs. In the present day, Abbott remains a leader in the pharmaceutical industry.

Armour and Company was founded in Chicago in 1867 by the Armour brothers, and was a leader in the meatpacking industry before its eventual expansion into pharmaceuticals and soap manufacturing (primarily achieved through the utilization of slaughterhouse byproducts from the meatpacking plants). Armour and Company was acquired by the Greyhound Corporation in 1970, with the Armour Pharmaceuticals branch being sold to Revlon in 1978, and again to Rorer in 1985. Dr. Frank H. Netter, a notable medical illustrator of the time, was initially commissioned by Armour and Company to prepare illustrations of major organs and their pathology in the 1930s, and was eventually asked to paint portraits of different medical environments represented in this collection sometime in the 1940s.

Burroughs Wellcome and Company was founded in London in 1880 by two American pharmaceutical salesmen, Silas Burrough and Henry Wellcome. Through proactive marketing campaigns and mass production of remedies and medicine, their pharmaceutical products quickly spread throughout the UK and its colonial territories, building a reputation based primarily upon scientific rigor. The company was sold to GlaxoSmiteKline in 1995, and is no longer owned or governed by the Wellcome Trust, which has separately been able to continue Henry Wellcome's vision for improving health through research into the present day.

A notable Swiss pharmaceutical company, CIBA began as a dye factory and manufacturer founded by Alexander Clavel in 1859. After being sold to Bindschedler & Busch in 1873, the company was transformed into the Gessellschaft fur Chemische Industrie Basel, or "CIBA," for short, by 1884. By 1900, CIBA had expanded into the realm of pharmaceutical substances. Throughout a unique history of mergers and acquisitions, the most significant of which occurred between Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz in 1996, CIBA has managed to persist to the present day as Norvartis International AG, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

Davis and Geck, Inc. was founded in 1909 by Charles T. Davis and Fred A. Geck, the owner of a medical supply company and an experienced suture marketer, respectively. At the time of the company's founding, many hospitals were chemically sterilizing their own catgut sutures in an ineffective manner, resulting in frequent infection and operative delays in patients. In 1913, Davis and Geck helped introduce the calustro-thermal process for the heat sterilization of suture tubes. This helped increase the reliability of suture sterilization, and also helped saved time in the operating room as well. In 1928, the Davis and Geck Company began to produce surgical films to document new procedures and to assist in the training of doctors and nurses, continuing into the 1980s as the Cliné Clinic Films Program. The company also produced a series of notable print advertisements from 1927 through 1950 titled Sutures in Ancient Surgery, featuring dramatically staged photographs by artist and photographer Lejaren à Hiller. . Davis and Geck, Inc. was eventually sold to and merged with the American Cyanamid Corporation in 1930 to settle issues around ownership.

Ethicon, Inc. was founded in 1921 as Johnson Suture Corporation, and was a principal developer, manufacturer, and marketer of sutures, ligatures, and other wound-closing products. During World War II, the demand for sutures skyrocketed due to the necessity of treating war-time injuries, allowing Ethicon to produce millions more wound-closing products than ever before to meet an unprecedented demand. The "Ethicon" line of sutures is one such surgical product that grew out of this subsidiary, eventually lending the success of its name to the subsidiary itself during a rebranding in 1949.

Parke, Davis and Company was founded in Detroit, MI in 1866 by Dr. Samuel P. Duffield, and was once the oldest and largest drug maker in the United States. Among other notable achievements in medical history, Parke, Davis and Company is generally credited with building the first modern pharmaceutical laboratory and developing the first systematic methods of clinical trials for new medications. Parke, Davis and Company was eventually acquired by Warner-Lambert in 1970, which itself was acquired by Pfizer in 2000.

The Upjohn company was a pharmaceutical manufacturing firm founded in 1886 in Michigan by Dr. William E. Upjohn, and was originally formed to make "friable pills" designed to be easily digestible or ground into a fine powder under one's thumb. Upjohn is notable for developing a process for large scale production of cortisone in 1952, vastly simplifying the traditionally lengthy synthesis process previously used to produce the drug. Upjohn merged with Pharmacia AB in 1995 to form Pharmacia & Upjohn. An additional 2020 merge with Mylan led to the creation of a new company called Viatris.

Originally founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1860 as "John Wyeth and Brother," Wyeth, Incorporated was also known as "American Home Products" from the early 1930s to 2002 before adopting the "Wyeth" name once again. Despite notable successes in the 1970s-1980s, the company was eventually acquired by Pfizer in a 2009 merger.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Pharmaceutical Promotions collection houses a number of promotional prints, advertisements, and visual materials from multiple pharmaceutical companies including: Ethicon, Inc.; Abbott Laboratories; Davis and Geck, Inc.; Burroughs Wellcome and Company; Parke, Davis and Company; Armour Laboratories; CIBA; Upjohn; and Wyeth Incorporated. In addition to reproductions of commissioned materials, there are also magazine clippings housed within this collection that were created by several of the aforementioned companies, as well as by other companies who are not otherwise represented in this collection.

This collection, which dates from 1925 to 1965, consists of educational graphic prints, magazine advertisement clippings, and promotional portrait series that evidence the commissions made by these pharmaceutical organizations and sent to hospitals, doctors, and pharmacies in targeted marketing efforts to encourage the use and prescription of their pharmaceutical products. This was achieved primarily through the commemoration of significant historical accomplishments in the medical and pharmaceutical disciplines in art, the glamorization of pharmaceutical product benefits in contemporary magazine advertisements, and the depiction of significant figures and relevant biographical information about them in the medical and pharmaceutical fields in contemporary publications, all of which are represented in some form in this collection.

Items of interest in this collection include two complete sets of oversized reproductions of Parke, Davis and Company's iconic A History of Pharmacy in Pictures(1947-1965) and A History of Medicine in Pictures (1957-1965), as well as a series of correspondence between Bertha Hallam, the first Library Director of the Library at the University of Oregon Medical School, and representatives of Parke, Davis and Company, dating between 1959 to 1961. Other unique items in this collection include an assortment of magazine clippings and advertisements from contemporary magazines of the mid-20th century, such as Time and Modern Medicine.

This collection provides a uniquely visual representative body of the advertising campaigns of several major pharmaceutical companies during the mid-20th century, whose goals and influence on medical history were primarily realized through the use of these targeted mass-marketing efforts. As may be expected in advertising and promotional media, not all information found in these materials were factually accurate, but it is important to note that the records contained in this collection do have genuine and persisting educational value despite this potential factual inaccuracy. Through impressive displays of artwork and use of flowery language, the recurring historical theme of extolling the positive benefits of their products and catalog of invaluable contributions to society, while ignoring or concealing anything remotely negative, is readily observed in this collection's materials.

Researchers with an interest in pharmaceutical marketing and advertising, the history of corporate artwork, and general medical or pharmacological history will find this collection an invaluable resource to explore.

The "Abbott Laboratories" records date from 1938 to 1958, and consist of a 1938 copy of a promotional pamphlet titled Abbott: Servant to Medicine, and a copy of the Winter 1958 of Abbott's What's New magazine, Issue number 204. The Servant to Medicine pamphlet is a self-published promotional publication made to highlight the history of Abbott Laboratories, its contributions to pharmaceutical science and research, and the innovations the company had made since its initial founding in the pharmacy of Dr. Wallace C. Abbott in 1888. The pamphlet is unique in that it contains many high-quality color and black and white photographs of contemporary laboratory equipment and buildings at the Abbott Laboratory campus in North Chicago. The What's New magazine features articles and unique commentary on widespread medical/pharmaceutical debates at the time, such as the provision of psychotherapy via television, and a thorough review on tetanus, including methods of treatment and the prevention of tetanus.

The "Armour and Company" records are approximately dated to the 1940s, and consist of a partial set of medical lithographs. These portraits were all painted by Frank H. Netter, M.D., a notable medical illustrator of the time who had previously worked with Armour Laboratories in the 1930s. Each portrait depicts a dramatic scene taking place in an "environment" in the medical world, which include a group of male students cramming for an exam in an apartment, the scene of a firefighting catastrophe, and a doctor arriving on the scene of a rural house call following a blizzard. This partial set of medical lithographs forms a unique and remarkably well-preserved sample of Netter's medical art career, which spanned nearly 60 years and resulted in over 4,000 illustrations.

The "Burroughs Wellcome and Company" records have an inferred date to sometime after 1957, and consist of assorted cardboard-mounted educational prints. The prints are reproductions of educational quotations and their associated artworks from notable medical figures that primarily serve as summaries of notable moments in medical and pharmaceutical history, including (but not limited to) the beginnings of Joseph Lister's antisepsis campaign, the first woman medical student, and the state of 18th-century hospital wards.

The "CIBA" records date from 1944, and consist of a complete oversized copy of The Seven Ages of a Physician portrait pamphlet. The pamphlet is a paraphrased nod to William Shakespeare's seven ages of man, and represents a tribute "to the science of healing and to those great men of medicine whose devout selflessness has had an almost religious significance." The paintings contained within this pamphlet were all painted by James Chapin, and unlike other portrait sets in this collection, it was explicitly intended to be viewed together as a complete set. Each portrait is preceded by a thin cover which briefly describes the scene of the portrait following it, which include a young boy grieving the death of a hare at his hand, a bedside instructional lecture between a doctor and his students, and doctors during war.

The "Davis and Geck, Inc." records date from 1927 to 1955, and consist of a legal-sized reproduction of Sutures in Ancient Surgery. This collection of dramatically staged photographs was taken by artist and photographer Lejaren à Hiller, representing nearly three decades of his career. The photographs depict major figures in the history of surgery, including Lanfranchi of Milan, Haly Abbas, and Trotula. A textual summary of each figure's most notable or lasting contribution to surgical history can be found below each photograph, which provides cursory biographical and historical information about the figure(s) depicted.

The "Ethicon, Inc." records date from 1944 to 1948, and consist of reproductions of the Great American Surgeons and Past Presidents of the American College of Surgery portrait sets. These five portrait sets were commissioned by Ethicon during the mid-1940s and depict notable American surgeons and past presidents of the American College of Surgeons, all of which were the commissions of "Great American Artists." In addition to the portraits themselves, each item is paired with relevant biographical information about the figure depicted, as well as some information about the artist of each individual piece.

The "Multiple Companies: Magazine Advertisements" records date from 1925 to 1962, and consist of clippings from contemporary magazines that glamorize the benefits of pharmaceutical products to both medical professionals and the general public. Some of the notable publications represented in this collection include Time, Modern Medicine, and the Medical Record magazines.

The "Parke, Davis and Company" records date from 1947 to 1965 and primarily consist of portrait reproductions. One folder in this grouping contains correspondence between Bertha Hallam, the first Director of the Library at the University of Oregon Medical School, and representatives of Parke, Davis and Company between 1959-1961. One folder represents letter-sized reproductions of Great Moments in Medicine (1966), a partial reproduction of the A History of Medicine in Pictures portrait series. Finally, the two remaining folders in this grouping each contain a complete set of oversized commercial reproductions of Parke, Davis and Company's iconic A History of Pharmacy in Pictures (1947-1956) and A History of Medicine in Pictures (1957-1965) promotional portrait series. The portrait series were painted on commission by Robert A. Thom, and the originals have been displayed at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., and at the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris, among other famous art museums.

The "Upjohn" records date to 1944, and consist of an oversized reproduction of the Your Doctor Speaks pamphlet. The pamphlet primarily contains inspirational quotes from doctors and medical personnel, accompanied by portraits painted by various artists. Information about the artist is typically found on the left-hand page of the accompanying portrait and quotations, in the bottom-right corner of the page. The right-hand page contains the portrait itself, along with relevant quotations from "Your Doctor," who also offers general medical advice on topics such as pneumonia and pregnancy.

The "Wyeth, Incorporated" records date from 1939 to 1961, and consist of assorted promotional portraits commissioned by Wyeth in the mid-20th century. The portraits depict paintings of various medical locales by artist Dean Cromwell, similar in nature to Frank Netter's Armour Laboratory lithograph series. The prints themselves are slightly faded due to light exposure, but the subjects of the paintings themselves (and their respective environments) are still discernable despite the damage.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

The Pharmaceutical Promotions collection, Collection Number 2022-003, Oregon Health & Science University, Historical Collections & Archives

Restrictions on Use

OHSU Historical Collections & Archives (HC&A) is the owner of the original materials and digitized images in our collections, however, the collection may contain materials for which copyright is not held. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials. Consult with HC&A to determine if we can provide permission for use.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Records in this collection are arranged alphabetically by the name of the company responsible for their creation. Folders within this collection are generally arranged chronologically within themselves, or restored to the original order of their creation/distribution whenever possible, as seen in the two Parke, Davis and Company portrait series.

Processing Note

These materials originally accrued in OHSU's vertical files collection, which largely consisted of publications and ephemera. Significant publications have since been cataloged and much of the ephemera, outside of what is now included in this Pharmaceutical Promotions collection, has been deaccessioned or incorporated into other HC&A holdings.


Blake, Hannah. "A history of Novartis." Pharmaphorum. Novartis, September 20, 2013.

Davis and Geck Company Records. Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Karas, Rachel. "'A History of Pharmacy in Pictures' and 'A History of Medicine in Pictures.'" Chapman University, November 11, 2021.

Library of Congress. "Conquerors of Yellow Fever." Accessed March 30, 2022.

Los Angeles Public Library. "Cornwell's medical painting." Calisphere. Accessed March 30, 2022.

Schatzki, Stefan. "Osler at Old Blockley." American Journal of Roentgenology 195, no. 6 (2010): 1478, doi: 10.2214/AJR.10.4992

The Wellcome Foundation. "History of Wellcome: Who we are." Accessed March 30, 2022.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1 Abbott Laboratories: Abbott: Servant to Medicine pamphlet 1938
1 2 Abbott Laboratories: What's New magazine, Issue 204 1958
3 1 Armour and Company: "Compliments of the Armour Laboratories" prints approximately 1940s
2 1 Burroughs Wellcome and Company: Cardboard mounted educational prints [1 of 2] after 1957
2 2 Burroughs Wellcome and Company: Cardboard mounted educational prints [2 of 2] after 1957
3 2 CIBA: The Seven Ages of a Physician portraits 1944
1 3 Davis and Geck, Inc.: Sutures in Ancient Surgery [1 of 2] 1927-1932
1 4 Davis and Geck, Inc.: Sutures in Ancient Surgery [2 of 2] bulk 1927-1950, 1955
1 5 Ethicon, Inc.: Great American Surgeons portraits 1944
1 6 Ethicon, Inc.: Past presidents of the American College of Surgery 1945
1 7 Ethicon, Inc.: Past presidents of the American College of Surgery 1946
1 8 Ethicon, Inc.: Past presidents of the American College of Surgery 1947-1948
1 9 Ethicon, Inc.: Portraits of Great American Surgeons by Famous American Artists possibly 1944
2 3 Multiple companies: Magazine clippings 1925-1962
2 4 Parke, Davis and Company: Correspondence: Hallam, Bertha 1959-1961
2 5 Parke, Davis and Company: Great Moments in Medicine promotional print set 1966
3 3 Parke, Davis and Company: A History of Medicine in Pictures portraits 1957-1965
3 4 Parke, Davis and Company: A History of Pharmacy in Pictures portraits 1947-1956
3 5 Upjohn: Your Doctor Speaks portraits 1944
3 6 Wyeth Incorporated: Cromwell Promotional portraits 1939-1940, 1946, 1961

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • History of Medicine
  • Pharmacology