Josiah K. Lilly, Sr.

Josiah K. Lilly, Sr.

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Josiah K. Lilly, Sr.

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Josiah Kirby Lilly, Sr. (November 1, 1861 – January 1, 1948) was a pharmaceutical industrialist, philanthropist, and President of Eli Lilly and Company.


Josiah Kirby Lilly was born on November 1, 1861 in Greencastle, Indiana, the son of Eli Lilly, a pharmacist, and Emily Lemen Lilly. His father enlisted in the Union army and was away during his birth. His father returned home and first saw him in 1863. He had an unsettled childhood, and was frequently moved around. His family moved to Mississippi in 1865, where his father worked a cotton plantation. He and his parents where stricken with malaria in 1866. He and his father recovered, but his eight-month-pregnant mother died on August 20. His father was devastated by the death, and the plantation fell into disrepair, requiring him to file bankruptcy. Lilly was sent to live with his grandparents, Gustavus and Esther Lilly, in Greencastle while his father attempted to reverse the family's fortunes.

Lilly was a shy and sensitive boy, and found life difficult with his grandparents. He was often scared, and feared many of the farm animals. His father remarried in 1869 to Maria Cynthia Sloan, and Lilly was returned to his father's guardianship. His father had opened a new pharmacy in Paris, Illinois, and Lilly lived there until moving to Indianapolis in 1873. His father opened a new business, Eli Lilly and Company, in 1876 and Lilly, at age 14, quit school to work in the...
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