Colonel Eli Lilly was a pharmaceutical chemist who had served as a Union officer in the Civil War. Lilly was dismayed by the poor preparation and frequent ineffectiveness of the drugs in his day. In 1876, he purchased a laboratory on Pearl Street in Indianapolis and started Eli Lilly and Co.
He formed the lab with a commitment to use the best methods of drug preparation available and that the medications they developed would be recommended by doctors, not by sideshow hucksters. The lab initially set out to improve the quality of existing medicines and later developed new drugs.
Maintaining family tradition, Colonel Lilly’s son, Josiah K. Lilly Sr., and two grandsons, Eli Lilly and Josiah K. Lilly Jr., each served as president of the company. Over time, Eli Lilly and Co. has grown to become one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.
From the beginning, Colonel Lilly set an example of Civic involvement in numerous ways, including the donation of money to create a children’s hospital. With the creation of the Lilly Endowment, in 1937, the Lilly family became Indiana’s largest benefactor.