Creator of Vicks VapoRub
Born in Johnston County


Today, Selma, North Carolina is perhaps best known for celebrating its railroad history or in recent years, acclaimed for its reinvented downtown proclaiming itself as an "Antique Mecca" with numerous antique boutiques. Few, however, may be aware that one of the most widely recognized medicinal products in the world was actually created by a Selma, NC native.

During the mid-1800s, Lunsford Richardson grew up on a plantation near Selma. Richardson was the youngest of five children, growing up in the shadow of the Civil War that would ruin the North Carolina economy. Richardson would dream of creating an economic boom for the state with a business that would serve the needs of millions.

Lunsford would go on to graduate from Davidson College and enter into the field of education, becoming a principal of a school in Cumberland County. While visiting his sister in Selma in 1880, Richardson decided to realize his earlier dream and became a druggist, or pharmacist by today's standards. He later opened a drug store in Greensboro, NC and began experimenting to create home remedies like headache powders, liniments and liver pills.

It was a rather nasty cold virus that struck his household and three children all at once that would provoke him to concoct his most successful product. The common practice of the era was to use a warm medicine applied with a cloth spread, call a poultice, and it was this old-time remedy that would provide the inspiration. The warmth of the poultice would be combined with a vaporizer lamp that would circulate aromatic medicine, clearing up congestion. As his children got better, Richardson got to work on a way of combining the benefits of both the warmth of the poultice and the vaporizer. Richardson began testing different combinations of menthol, camphor, oil of eucalyptus and other ingredients. Lastly, he added petroleum to create a salve. When the salve was rubbed on the chest and neck of a person's body, a soothing heat would be released and the salve's pungent vapors would soon help in opening up the sinuses.

It looked to be the fulfillment of his dream, but he would need a name for the product. To create the memorable label, he would turn to his brother-in-law, Joshua Vick, because of the simplicity of his last name. Vick's salve became very popular, with the ease of its application and the effects that it on congestion.  In 1898, the Lunsford Richardson Wholesale Drug Company was founded for the purpose of marketing the product to a wider audience.

Nine years later, Lundsford's son, H. Smith Richardson, became involved with the company as sales manager and soon was peddling the Vicks salve across the Southeast. He would add the final modification to the name, by suggesting that the name be Vicks VapoRub. Intense marketing campaigns of product demonstrations, newspaper coupons and bonuses to druggists placing larger orders, had Vicks VapoRub spreading across the country. The company would then leave a lasting impression upon the western half of the nation in 1922, with five million free samples given to those living in rural areas who had not yet heard of the product.

Today the Vicks VapoRub products and their trademarks are owned by Proctor & Gamble. When Lunsford died in 1919, sales of his claim to fame had topped $3 million. When his son passed away in 1972, Vicks VapoRub had generated $450 million in sales.

The young man from Selma, North Carolina who had dreamed what would have seemed like the impossible succeeded in his aspirations to create a globally successful product. The brand that he pioneered lives on in the pharmacies and in the family medicine cabinets throughout the world nearly 130 years after embarking upon a pharmaceutical career.