It’s that time of year, cold season. Sore throats, coughs, and colds are rampant. How do you treat the symptoms of these bothersome maladies? For many of us in Pennsylvania’s Americana Region, a favorite over-the-counter remedy is none other than Luden’s cough drops. After all, this game changing cough suppressant got its beginning right here in our region. In fact, one of the most successful industrialists to call Reading, Pennsylvania home was none other than William Henry Luden, inventor of the menthol cough drop. His story is truly one of rags to riches.
Luden was born in Reading in 1859. His father, a jeweler, had immigrated to Reading from the Netherlands, but died within a few years of arriving in the states. Although William quit school at fifteen to become an apprentice candy maker, his business acumen was soon evident. By 1879, at the age of twenty, Luden opened his own candy company in his mother’s kitchen, located in the back of his late father’s shop. From humble beginnings, came true greatness.
From the start, Luden did things differently from other candy makers. He convinced stores to sell his confections, while his competitors sold their goods, door to door. His biggest accomplishment, of course, was the cough drop. Prior to its invention, cough and cold sufferers had to carry vials of menthol on their person to relieve their symptoms. Another ingenious idea, Luden sampled his cough drop. What better way to sell an item than to let someone first try it for free! He provided railroad workers with samples of his cough drops. This simple offering helped to spread word of his product across the country. Within no time his cough drops had gained national recognition. Talk about a marketing strategy!
The rest, of course, is history. William Luden’s cough drop made him a wildly successful and wealthy man. In the 1920s, The Luden Company was sold to Food Industries of Philadelphia, and has transferred ownerships many times since then. However, Luden’s legacy lives on in Pennsylvania’s Americana Region and beyond. Where would we be today if William Henry Luden had not invented his magical cough cure!