Burroughs, Silas Mainville

  • Burroughs, Silas Mainville (1846-1895). Manufacturing chemist and co-founder of Burroughs Wellcome & Co
Mid 19th Century-Late 20th Century
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


The following is an interim description which may change when detailed cataloguing takes place in future:

Personal papers of Silas Burroughs, manufacturing chemist and co-founder of Burroughs Wellcome & Co. Contains business papers, including a few letters between him and Henry Wellcome, plus letter books, writings, travel diaries, photographs and his postcard collection. Also includes the business papers of Olive Burroughs following the death of her husband, and notes on family history compiled by Len Goodwin.


Mid 19th Century-Late 20th Century

Physical description

6 transfer boxes, 15 archive boxes, 1 small non-standard box, 1 folder and 1 packet

Biographical note

Silas Mainville Burroughs was born on Christmas Eve 1846 in Medina, New York. He graduated from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy in 1877, and worked as a travelling pharmaceutical salesman.

In 1878 he travelled to London as an agent for John Wyeth & Bro. Once there, Burroughs decided to start his own company, Burroughs and Co, importing American medicines into the UK. Having decided to expand the business, in 1880 he invited fellow Philadelphia graduate Henry Wellcome to join him as junior partner, and the company was renamed Burroughs Wellcome and Co.

The relationship between Burroughs and Wellcome deteriorated over the years, largely due to differences in personality. By 1889 the situation was so bad that Burroughs served a writ on Wellcome for dissolution of the partnership on the grounds of “neglect of the firm’s interests.” It was not successful, and the two men were forced to continue working together.

Burroughs and Wellcome were in the process of renegotiating their partnership in the winter of 1894 when Burroughs caught a severe cold. He travelled to Monte Carlo to recuperate, but died of pneumonia in February 1895. The renegotiation process had not been completed, and under the existing terms Burroughs' widow was obligated to sell her share of the company to Henry Wellcome. Olive Burroughs contested this in court, but was forced to concede, and Wellcome gained full control of the company in 1898.

More information about the life and work of Silas Burroughs can be found on the Wellcome Trust website

Terms of use

This collection is currently uncatalogued and cannot be ordered online. Requests to view uncatalogued material are considered on a case by case basis. Please contact collections@wellcomecollection.org for more details.

Ownership note

Purchased by the Wellcome Library between 1998 and 2000.

Permanent link


Accession number

  • 748
  • 764
  • 821