Burroughs Wellcome & Company Letter Books

Part of:
Wellcome Foundation Ltd
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


22 Letterbooks consisting of copies of internal and external letters sent by the head office of Burroughs Wellcome & Co (BW&Co), Snow Hill, from 1881 to 1907.

The letterbooks focus on the day-to-day running of the business, with detailed correspondence with the Burroughs Wellcome productions site in Dartford. They also illustrate the growth of the company, with correspondence surrounding the creation of the branches in Sydney and Cape Town, and later Milan, Montreal and New York.

The correspondence contained within runs from internal correspondence covering such administrative details as terms of employment and recruitment, to external correspondence with Burroughs Wellcome's agents abroad.

A good deal of the letterbooks is devoted Burroughs Wellcome & Co's relationship with their Travelling Representaives (Travelling Salesmen),with letters discussing such topics as sales techniques, the opening of new markets, the threat from rival companies and BW&Co products over which complaints have arisen.

Also covered is Burroughs Wellcome & Co's relationship with the research laboarotories funded by Henry Wellcome during this period: the Wellcome Physiological Research Laboratories (WPRL, established 1894) the Wellcome Chemical Research Laboratories (WCRL, established 1897) and also the Wellcome Tropical Research Laboratories, established 1901 as the Research Laboratories, Gordon Memorial College). Particular emphasis is given to the Wellcome's campaign for the Home Office to register his Laboratories under the 1876 Cruelty to Animals Act (the Laboratories were registered in 1901).

The letterbooks give a detailed insight into the workings of the company, and illustrate how sensitive the company were to their branding. A good deal of the correspondence around c.1900 concerns perceived breaches of the company's trade mark 'Tabloid', most notably the actions of Thompson and Capper, which led to 'Tabloid' legal case (or 'Manchester case') and which is extensively covered here.

The letterbooks also contain details on such events as the death of Silas M Burroughs and the activities of Wellcome's collecting agents for Wellcome's proposed Historical Medical Exhibition.

Notable names in the correspondence include Lt Peary, Viscount Kitchener, Cecil Rhodes and Alfred Harmsworth.

The letterbooks illustrates Henry Wellcome's close relationship to Burroughs Wellcome & Co. As such, the detailed letters to Wellcome included in each letterbook, act as a summary for the topics covered in each volume.

Due to the fragility of the Letterbooks, readers should request the Microfiche version, as indicated on each Letterbook's catalogue entry.



Physical description

22 Letter Books

Location of duplicates

These letterbooks have been microfilmed as AMS/MF/174-200. due to their extreme fragility, the original material will not be produced in the reading room: readers will be required to order the microfilm copy. In several cases one letterbook is spread across two or more microfilms: in these cases a separate order will have to be placed for each microfilm.

Ownership note

Please see main WF collection description (ref. 'WF').

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