Biographical / Historical
Kiehl's Pharmacy, located on the corner of Third Avenue and East 13th Street, New York, New York, was originally owned by German immigrant Louis Brunswick, who sold herbs and oils at his Brunswick Apotheke in 1851. About thirty years later, Brunswick sold the store to apothecaries Englehardt and Huber. When John Kiehl (born 1868) was around twenty years old, he began working at the Englehardt & Huber Apothecary, eventually taking ownership of the company. Kiehl was known for his unique tonics and remedies inspired by old-world, botanical recipes, including virility creams, medicinal salves, curative oils, baldness cures, and exotic concoctions like Attraction Powder, Life Everlasting, Money Drawing Oil, and Love Oil. Beginning in 1921, Kiehl's offered a variety of essences that were blended by hand for customers, including Musk Oil, Grapefruit, Amber, Gardenia, Cucumber, and Pour Homme.
The Morse family immigrated to the United States from Russia before World War One, and son Irving A. Morse, or "Doc Morse," (died 1980) worked as an apprentice to John Kiehl while also serving in the U.S. Army during World War One and earning a pharmacology degree from Columbia University. In 1921, Morse bought the company from Kiehl, continuing his tradition of providing homeopathic cures and herbal remedies from the old country while expanding the company into a full-service, modern pharmacy. Like Kiehl, Morse valued the personal relationships he had with his customers and encouraged them to experiment with the products before choosing which would best suit their needs. "Try before you buy" became the company motto, and this principle of personalized customer service established by Irving Morse continues to this day.
Irving Morse's son Aaron (1923-1996) followed in his father's footsteps in business, studying pharmacology at the Columbia University School of Pharmacy and joining the army as a pilot during World War Two. After graduation, Aaron began Morse Laboratories Inc. in Hoboken, New Jersey to develop manufactured products for Kiehl's Pharmacy. Morse Laboratories operated from the late 1940s until 1961, and its first product was Ostrocal, a fluoride therapy product sold at Kiehl's. Starting in 1948, Morse expanded the company's product line to include a variety of penicillin and antibiotic products. Morse Laboratories Inc. supplied the New York City Hospital System and sanatoriums throughout New York State with paramino salicylic acid for the treatment of tuberculosis and supplied the U.S. government with aloe vera cream "for use against radiation burns."
In 1961, Aaron Morse took over Kiehl's Pharmacy from his father and sold Morse Laboratories Inc. in 1964. Pharmacy operations moved to Paterson, New Jersey, and were renamed Biocraft Laboratories. Aaron Morse shifted the purpose of Kiehl's Pharmacy from providing homeopathic cures and chemicals to developing and selling natural skin and hair care products. In 1988, after having been diagnosed with cancer, Aaron Morse gave ownership of the company to his daughter, Jami Morse Heidegger. Jami and her husband Klaus modernized the company and computerized the mail-order business, in addition to developing marketing strategies, including brochures and newsletters. Like her father, Jami Morse also expanded the product line, introducing baby, equine, and athletic products to the company's inventory.
In 2000, L'Oréal purchased the company from Jami Morse who, along with her husband, continued to serve as co-presidents until 2001.
Berger, Meyer, "About New York; 3d Ave. Apothecary Shop Does Big Business in Love Philters and Conjure Medicines," New York Times, January 7, 1959, 30.
"Brunswick Apotheke, Englehardt & Huber, Kiehl's Since 1851," Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, http://gvshp.org/blog/2011/03/11/brunswick-apotheke-englehardt-huber-kiehl%E2%80%99s-since-1851/ (accessed July 8, 2011).
Frank, Deborah, "Shopping at the Original Kiehl's," Departures.com, http://www.departures.com/articles/shopping-at-the-original-kiehls, last accessed July 8, 2011.
"Her Hair Turned Green," New York Times, December 25, 1900.
"Kiehl's," BlueMercury.com, http://www.bluemercury.com/brandFC.asp?qid=4&brand=50, last accessed July 8, 2011.
"Kiehl's Since 1851, Inc.," FundingUniverse.com, http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/Kiehls-Since-1851-Inc-Company-History.html, last accessed July 8, 2011.
"Our Story," Keihl's.com, http://www.kiehls.com/Our-Story/history,default,pg.html, last accessed July 8, 2011.