Horlick’s Malted Milk began manufacture in the late 1800’s and is still produced today by the GlaxoSmithKline plc, a British company headquartered in Brentford, London. According to the Horlicks web site:
Horlick’s was invented by two British-born men, William Horlick (1846-1936) and his brother James (1844-1921) from Gloucestershire, England. James was a chemist, working for a company that made dried baby food. William, the younger brother, had immigrated to America in 1869 and James decided to join him in Chicago in 1873. That same year, they started their own company (J&W Horlicks) to make a malted milk drink. They called their product “Diastoid” and their advertising slogan read: Horlick’s Infant and Invalid Food”
In 1875 the business moved to the outskirts of Racine Wisconsin, and up until 1883 they continued to use the name J&W Horlick. The 1882 Racine City Directory lists them as:
J&W Horlick (James and William Horlick) manufacturers of Horlick’s Food and Dry Extract of Malt. Rapids Road.
In 1883, the business incorporated under the name Horlick’s Food Company. They established a factory on Northwestern Avenue and around this time began using the factory location as their address. Early directories that I was able to find (1888, 1890, 1897, 1901, 1902, 1904, 1910, 1914 and 1916) listed their address as simply “Northwestern Avenue near the city line.” All of these directories, list James as president and William as secretary/treasurer. Sometime between 1905 and 1910, the business changed it’s name to the Horlick’s Malted Milk Co.
After James’s death in 1921, William became president. The 1929 directory lists William as president and his sons William Horlick Jr and A.J. Horlick as vice presidents.
These early years of the business were featured in a history of Racine Wisconsin called “Racine Belle City of the Lakes and Racine County, Wisconsin, Volume II, published in 1916. It’s a little long and some facts, as presented, differ from the information found in the city directories, but all in all it paints a vivid picture of the company at the time including it’s product development, facilities, relationship with it’s employees and economic importance to Racine.
The name of no productive industry of the United States is perhaps more widely known than that of the Horlick Malted Milk Company, the business of which has developed until it reaches all parts of the civilized world. The company was organized in 1875 and was incorporated in 1878 as the Horlick Food Company by William and James Horlick, brothers, who established their plant in the outskirts of Racine, in Mount Pleasant Township. They began to manufacture a product known as Horlick’s Food, which was a prepared food for infants, invalids and the aged, to be added to milk to modify and enrich it. Their sales at the time covered only Chicago and vicinity. William Horlick, however, realized the great disadvantage of all foods for infants that required the addition of fresh milk, owing to the difficulty of obtaining fresh milk and keeping it so. He therefore began experimenting with the purpose of producing a pure food product containing adequate proportion of pure, rich milk – a food that would complete in itself, that would keep indefinitely in any climate and would be free from all the dangers arising from the use of milk that is impure, adulterated, laden with disease germs or in any way rendered unfit for use. Moreover, he desired that this food should be not only absolutely safe but very nourishing and easily digested by the most delicate infant or invalid, while it should contain at the same time all the elements of nutrition. In carrying on the work of experimentation Mr. Horlick met with many disappointments and leading chemists claimed that it was both a chemical and mechanical impossibility to perfect such a food, advising him to abandon the idea. He never faltered in his purpose, however, notwithstanding his heavy losses of time and expense, and at the end of six years, or in 1887, he produced for the first time in the world’s history a food product in powder form containing clean, rich milk combined with extract of malted barley and wheat that would keep indefinitely. The value of such a product was at once apparent and the business grew by leaps and bounds, so that it was difficult to make the supply meet the demand. A program of building was instituted. New buildings were added from time to time of reinforced concrete construction and the plant today covers an area of fifteen acres. In 1902 plant No. 2 was built, being a duplicate of plant No. 1, and in 1905 plant No. 3 came into existence, a triplicate of the others, but subject to enlargement. Since then the old buildings have all been rebuilt in concrete and steel. All rooms are large and well lighted and there is a perfect fire protection. Sanitation and cleanliness are among the basic elements of the business. There is a forced system of ventilation through the plant, the air being washed by sprays of water.
To maintain such a plant necessitated the employment of a large force of people and in developing the plant the company has shown marked consideration for the welfare of the employees. They maintain an athletic association and there is a whist club and a cricket club for employees and also an employees’ beneficial association. On the pay roll are found three hundred and fifty names. The department of agriculture of the State University at Madison says that the standard of dairying in this part of Wisconsin has been raised very largely owing to the rules of the Horlick factory in regard to the production of good, clean milk and the example furnished therein. Nearly every city in the United States has asked for a copy of the rules of this plant for the production and care of pure milk and these rules have constituted the basis for much municipal legislation in regard to the milk supply of cities. William Horlick owns personally several farms upon which are several hundred head of cows and he also buys milk from one hundred and fifty farmers. In 1915 the company erected a new milk house which is one of the finest in the country.
The process employed in the manufacture of the food consists in boiling the milk in a vacuum, which enables them to boil it without heating above one hundred and forty degrees, for milk “cooks” at one hundred and fifty-six degrees. This results, therefore, in removing all water without cooking. The company has a plant in Slough, England, equal to the No. 2 plant of Racine, and supplies from that point Europe, Africa and a part of India. The trade today covers the entire world, shipments leaving for all parts of the world every week. Every Arctic explorer for the past twenty years has carried a supply of Horlick’s malted milk in powder and lunch tablet form, for it supplies more nutrition to the bulk than any other food and people have lived for many years with no other sustenance. It is standard with all the armies of the world and is regarded as an indispensable accessory on all exploration and camping trips.
In 1889 James Horlick went to New York, where he established a branch, and in 1890 opened the English branch and since that time has been in charge of the English plant. He is the president of the company. William Horlick has been managing director of the home plant and has always lived in Racine. He is secretary and treasurer of the company and his two sons are actively associated with him, the elder, A.J., being vice president of the company, with William Horlick, Jr. as secretary. In 1906 the name was changed to Horlick’s Malted Milk Company. There is no other enterprise that has made Racine as well known throughout the world as this product, today used in every civilized country on the face of the globe.
The story mentions that James went to New York in 1889 to start a branch and then moved on to England in 1890 but the NYC directories say otherwise. There’s no mention of James or the business in the 1889 or 1891 NYC directories but James is listed in the 1892 directory. In that directory, and that directory only, he’s listed at 230 Pearl with the title President. I can’t find any mention of Horlick’s in NYC again until 1904 so it doesn’t appear that James established a NY branch at that point though he may have laid the groundwork.
In 1904 A. J. Horlick, one of William’s sons, is listed as a director in a company called H.W. St John & Co. with an address of 239 South Street. Then between 1905 and 1925 Horlick’s Food Co., and later, Horlick’s Malted Milk Co. is listed and H.W. St John & Co. is included in the listing as their agent. Based on the directories I can find they were located at 239 South Street (1905), 37 Pearl Street (1909 – 1917) and 18 Pearl Street (1918 – 1932). In 1948, H.W. St John & Co. is still listed at 18 Pearl but there’s no mention of Horlick’s.
H.W. St John is still in business today. Their web site calls them freight forwarders and says they were founded in 1902. Based on the fact that A.J. Horlick was one of their early (and probably initial) directors, I have to think that the Horlick’s were instrumental in starting the company in NY as an instrument to distribute their products.
As described in the above feature, the secret to Horlick’s success was developing the process of drying milk into a powder. They obtained a patent (278967A) for the process entitled “Granulated food for infants and process of preparing the same” on June 5, 1883, not 1887 as stated in the story. Four years later, in 1887, they trademarked the name “malted milk. The 1883 date is confirmed in a Horlick advertisement entitled “A Discovery that Benefits Mankind” found in the June 25, 1919 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
A 1921 National Association of Retail Druggists price list demonstrated that by then they were not only selling malted milk in different size cans or jars including a “hospital” size but also selling what they called “malted milk lunch tablets.”
Originally intended for infants and invalids, Horlick’s malted milk was a perfect fit for the back packs of explorers and soldiers. According to the Horlick’s web site the drink has made it’s way to both the North and South poles and in fact, Richard Byrd named the Horlicks Mountains on the Ross Ice Shelf in honor of the company’s $30,000 sponsorship.
The 15 acre factory site, located on Northwestern Avenue must have been in a constant state of flux what with the constant building additions and modifications described in the story. The grounds however appeared to be kept perfectly manicured at all times. A February 1912 article in the Practical Druggist summed it up this way:
To gain an adequate idea of the extreme beauty of the surroundings of the Horlick plant, one must visit it during the summer, when the eye can feast on the vision of green turf, the abundant foliage and many-hued flowers and the lagoon.
A couple of Horlick postcards capture both the size of the operation and the impeccable landscaping.
According to a 2001 article in the “Journal Times” the Company shut down in 1975. Today, some of the Horlick building complex remains. Haban Manufacturing was utilizing a portion of it to manufacture snow blowers and related equipment but that company went out of business in 2000.
This photo appears to be the current view of the building to the right in the first Horlick Post Card above.
I’v found two Horlick’s jars over the years, both early machine made. The smaller one is 5 inches tall, 2-1/2 inches in diameter and includes the embossed locations, “Racine” and “London.” I suspect this jar was made prior to 1908 when they opened their factory in Slough Bucks, England.
The second is larger, 7 inches tall and 3 inches in diameter. It’s embossing includes the Slough Bucks location, likely dating it 1908 or later.
Both were probably wrapped in paper as evidenced by this early 1920’s advertisement from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that pictures what they call “the old reliable round package”