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7 things you probably didn’t know about Merck

From Thomas Edison to Meryl Streep, these interesting tidbits about our company may surprise you

July 21, 2021

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For more than 130 years, Merck has been driven by the view that great medicines and vaccines can change the world. Our legacy and continuing evolution center around inventing medicines and vaccines that help save and improve lives.

Many people know us for our strong commitment to science, research and innovation. But throughout our history, there have been plenty of interesting milestones, moments and people impacting who we are today. Here are seven little-known facts about our company that may surprise you:


Harry Streep

Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep’s father, Harry Streep, worked at Merck for 25 years, retiring in 1975. His roles included manager of compensation and benefits for Rahway personnel, director of personnel for the international division and manager of foreign research and planning.


Merck pharmacy in downtown Mahattan

In 1897, Merck & Co. opens its own stylish pharmacy in downtown Manhattan. The Merck Pharmacy became known across the U.S. and Europe for exclusively selling medicines, candies and knick-knacks, which was unheard of at the time.


Thomas Edison

Lightbulb inventor Thomas Edison was neighbors with our founder George Merck and an early customer of Merck & Co.


The great-granddaughter of the first Black person to vote in the U.S. after the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment worked at Merck. Althea Peterson, great- granddaughter of Thomas M. Peterson, worked in Merck’s personnel relations department. Ratified in 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed the right to vote regardless of race or color.


1914 photo of men and women posing in front of fence

One of our first employee organizations was the Antiseptic Club. Although nicknamed the “Microbe Killers,” it appears the Antiseptic Club had nothing to do with germ fighting. Instead, it was created to promote good fellowship and hosted annual social outings and games.


Merck stock

In 1941, Merck made a public stock offering of 202,372 common stock shares. The stock was priced at $28.75 a share. In 1946, Merck listed shares on the New York Stock Exchange.


Raoul Dufy

In the 1940s and 1950s, Merck was the first to synthesize cortisone, later determined to be an effective anti-inflammatory. Merck’s cortisone was used to treat the career-ending arthritis of renowned Fauvist painter Raoul Dufy. Dufy resumed his work and gave Merck the right to reproduce five of his paintings.