Thomas Beecham began his working life as a shepherd boy. He learned a good deal about herbal remedies at this time and developed a special knack for healing animals. In 1847 Beecham began hawking his own brand of herbal medicines in the markets of Wigan in Greater Manchester. Subsequent success enabled him to establish a shop in Wigan as a grocer and herbalist.
In 1859 Beecham opened a factory in St. Helens which focused on producing cough tablets and the soon to be famous Beecham laxative pills.
In 1881 Thomas Beecham’s son Joseph took control of the company. During the 1880s Joseph Beecham oversaw the expansion of the company. First, Beecham’s Pills were exported to countries throughout the British Empire. In 1888 they were distributed in the US and Canada, and two years later a manufacturing facility was set up in New York. Extensive advertising made Beecham’s Pills practically a household word on several continents by the end of the 19th century.
In the 1930s Beechams entered the toiletries business and in 1938 the company acquired Lucozade, a popular glucose drink, to enter the health drink field.
In 1943 the company decided to focus more on research and built Beecham Research Laboritories in Brockham Park, Surrey. In the 1950s and 60s, Beechams developed penicillin derivatives as the company concentrated on pharmaceutical development. In 1972 Beechams launched Amoxil, which went on to become one of the most widely prescibed antibiotics.
In 1989 the company merged with SnithKline Beckman to form SmithKline Beecham plc. In 2000 SmithKline Beecham and GlaxoWellcome merged to form GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). GSK still uses the Beechams brand name in the UK for its over-the-counter cold and flu relief products.