Squibb, George S.
Manuscript Diary of Harvard Student George S. Squibb, of the pharmaceutical family E. R. Squibb & Sons, 1933

octavo, 76 manuscript pp., plus blanks; includes at front a 10 pp. alphabetical list of the names of twenty-eight women and the towns they live, or are from; bound in original red cloth, one day entry per page format, entries written in ink, in a legible hand, rear board warped slightly, some staining and wrinkling of cloth to rear board; fore-edge, inner and outer margins stained on some pages, with small loss of text on half dozen pages, otherwise good; ownership inscription of “George S. Squibb, Jr. Providence, 1933.”

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George S. Squibb (1915-1993)

George S. Squibb was born in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1915 and grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. He graduated from Harvard in 1936 and earned a law degree at New York University in 1953. The diary offered here was kept while he was a freshman at Harvard University in 1933.

Mr. Squibb worked for 30 years for E. R. Squibb & Sons, which was founded by his great-grandfather, Edward R. Squibb. Early in his career, George S. Squibb worked in the company's distribution and sales divisions. In 1949 he was promoted to secretary of the company and in 1953 became the director of domestic administrative operations. Later he was the vice president in charge of sales and marketing.

In 1967, after he retired, he gave testimony critical of the pharmaceutical industry before the Senate Subcommittee on Monopoly. He accused some in the industry of "exploitation of medicines used in life-preserving situations by setting prices far above the cost." He said this was wrong "no matter what justification or economic temptation is felt by the manufacturer." Because of the public need for medicine, he said, the industry has a special obligation and should lower prices even if it means lower profits. He also said the industry sometimes did poor research and wasted money.

George S. Squibb died in Providence in 1993. He was 78 and had been living in Jamestown, Rhode Island. The cause of death was heart failure. He was the former commodore of the Larchmont and Saunderstown Yacht Clubs and past president of the National Club Association of Washington and the Dunes Club in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

His first two wives, the former Ida Ellerson and Beatrice Read predeceased him. His third wife, Thayer Keeler, survived him. Squibb had two sons, George S. 3d of Pomfret, Vermont., and John E. of North Branford, Connecticut.; two daughters, Colin Reeves of Little Rock, Arkansas, and Mary Patterson Squibb of Denver.

E. R. Squibb & Sons

George S. Squibb’s great grandfather was Edward Robinson Squibb (1819-1900). E. R. Squibb was a leading American inventor and manufacturer of pharmaceuticals, founder of E. R. Squibb and Sons, which eventually became part of the modern pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb.

E.R. Squibb was born in Wilmington, Delaware, on July 4, 1819. At age 26 he graduated from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He immediately became a ship’s doctor in the U.S. Navy, serving during the ongoing Mexican–American War. After the war he ran the medical station at Brooklyn Navy Yard.

As a Navy physician, Squibb became disenchanted with the poor quality of medicines used on American military vessels and, as a result, in 1854 he invented an improved method of distilling ether, an anesthetic. He gave away his distillation method, rather than patent it for profit.

In 1858 he left the military and started his own pharmaceutical manufacturing business in Brooklyn. His laboratory burned down three times, and in one of these instances an ether explosion left Squibb badly burned.

Between the end of the Civil War and Squibb ‘s death in 1900, his laboratory thrived. During the last years of his life, he left management of the firm to his sons, Charles and Edward, and together they created a partnership; the firm being known for generations afterwards as E. R. Squibb and Sons.  The company supplied huge quantities of anesthetics, arsenicals, and other drugs for the doughboys fighting World War I and earned an “Award for Distinguished Service” for its production efforts.

A near century-long tradition of supplying the armed forces, coupled with considerable scientific and production expertise, left the “House of Squibb” well prepared to meet the challenges and demands of World War II. As early as 1939, company officials consulted with military authorities on tentative wartime production plans and selected facilities were enlarged to ensure sufficient capacity to meet future emergencies. When America did enter the war, E.R. Squibb & Sons became one of the largest single suppliers of medicinal products to the Army and Navy, providing more than a hundred different products, again almost literally from “A to Z”: arsenicals, chloroform, digitoxin, ether, methyl bromide, plasma, quinine, sulfa drugs, vaccines, and dozens more.

E.R Squibb and Sons had been a manufacturer of various vitamin products, but the main focus of its consumer advertising was its toothpaste and tooth-powder products. In 1944 Squibb opened the world’s largest penicillin manufacturing plant. In 1953, Squibb Corporation was acquired by the conglomerate Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation. When Olin spun the division off in 1968, its manager Richard Furland became the head of the independent Squibb Corporation. Furland transformed Squibb and placed it solidly on the prescription drug path, not by acquisition but by reinforcing internally its technical and functional capacities.

The merger between Bristol-Myers and Squibb Corporation took place in 1989. The merger created Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, which was then the world’s second-largest pharmaceutical enterprise.

       Description and Sample Quotations from Diary:

Squibb kept the present diary when he was a freshman at Harvard University. He recounts class days, studying for exams, various socials/dances that he attends, his friends at school, etc. He also writes of trips home to Providence, RI; a trip to New York City, etc. He very much likes the theater and film, and gives reviews of the shows, or movies, he views. His entries are quite detailed and very well written:

“January 1, 1933

Here we are again, 1933. How different the situation is from this time a year ago. Then I could look back on 1931 as the best year of my life, while before me lay 1932, one mass of problems and questions which seemed almost overwhelming at the time. But they’ve all worked out, to the last, and now another set lie before me.

There is the question of my success here at Harvard, including all the little side issues influencing that success one way or the other, then there’s next year to be thought about, what will I major in and so on, the roommate question too. Hall looms pretty large now, but I venture to say they’ll all work out, and he will be as smooth as ever.

Easily the most important thing to decide is what I shall major in. This seems to be the turning point for my life – work. It is a very important decision to make. I waver between economics, history, sociology, and government. I think sociology is uppermost now, but then there are many things in favor of each of the other branches. I’ve got to begin to have some idea of what I want to do at college. All I know now is what I don’t want to do.”

“January 2, 1933

Tonight, I attended the sub debutant dance at the Agawam. I really had quite a good time after the novelty of it wore off. The dinner before however was not so good. As partners I had Ann Jackson & a Congdon. Couldn’t have been worse! However, it was finally over and I escaped lightly for all of it.

Nancy Marshall was present very cold and distant. Had the supper dance with her and at times she was almost rude. The Kelley’s Harriet & Doris held my attention for some while. Harriett not so pretty as she has been, and Doris at her best. Danced with the Chafee’s, and with Emily Stone easily the spinning lights of the next set. In a few years these girls ought to be most unusually beautiful and charming. Had a few words with Phyliss Lord and Mary Stearns and managed to snatched Janet Buggs away from her throng of beaus for a couple of minutes. Helena Stuckles as nice as usual But, easily the belle of the ball for me was Judy Chaffee. She’s a wonderfully nice girl. It seemed she came without escort, so I was enable to fill in [throughout] the evening and could take her home. She is attractive, pleasant, amusing, and intelligent in one!”

“January 9, 1933

Tonight, burst the bonds of scholarly retirement and went in to the Colonial to see ‘Pardon My English,’ a new musical comedy. There met Knowles, Johnson, & Weld, and passed a very enjoyable evening.

‘Pardon My English,’ is a good show, as well it might be expected to be with music by the Gershwin’s, humor by Jack Pearl, and charm by Lyda Roberti. The whole thing moves right along, no hitches or boring moments, there are lots of good laughs, and a swell chorus. The latter is especially noteworthy. There is some original routine and they are superbly drilled. Jack Buchanan plays the leading role and is always pleasant and agreeable enough until he starts to sing. Then he’s not so good. Miss Roberti is grand, she stopped the show three times. She has a great personality and radiates cheer, etc. The whole thing is well worth attention.

The theater business in Boston seems to be holding up. Tonight, there are four shows opening and every time I’ve been to the theater the place has been well filled if not packed as was the Colonial tonight. It shows that some people still have money and don’t care if they spend it.”

“January 11, 1933

Today in English class Butterfield gave a list of ten modern authors of which we were to choose six for future discussion and reading. Of course, most of the class were ignorant f a few of the names. It surprised me to find no one knew of Maugham, nor O’Neil. It really is surprising to find out how little the average Harvard man has read in the modern field that’s any good at all. All of the names chosen were well know, if not universally spread around, but I don’t think there were three in the class beside me who knew them all.

Henry James for instance, a total blank. Perhaps it’s as well, as I don’t think he’s of any value to the modern student of the novel. Then Willa Cather was a great unknown along with Huxley and Priestley. These there all living and writing now seem to be especially lacking in support. Another surprise Hardy of course, got the big hand, along with I’m sorry to say, Conrad. Bennett is fairly popular, and of course there’s always Sinclair Lewis. Galsworthy is in the middle. Everyone has heard of him at least. The whole affair was a bit disgraceful for supposedly educated men.”

“January 12, 1933

Today was typical of a large slice of this Cambridge life. Spent in more or less lackadaisical study and long ‘bull sessions,’ nothing much to show when its over, but a pleasant day in the spending…”

“January 13, 1933

This evening I packed George off to the Friday Evening at the Somerset. He dreaded it like poison as it appears he has to spend his entire time in looking after his sister, seeing she didn’t get stuck, introducing new material, and in general acting as floor manager for her. I can’t imagine a much worse way of spending a dance.

From what Upton tells me Boston is a sink-hole of society. That is to say, there is no attempt among the younger generation at polite attention to unattractive girls, no unselfish work to make even one girl enjoy herself a little more in short snobbery at its height. Besides it appears that the girls are unusually plain, poorly dressed, and poor dancers. Their mother dump them against the wall at the dances and then retire to the balconies and corners to argue and squabble over other people’s daughters and sons. The whole bunch sounds picayune and small in every sense. It shows as well as anything the old Boston and even New England narrowness and bigotry and their basic snobbery and selfishness. The whole social system in this part of the U.S. is rotten to the core and is just an empty sepulcher of better and grander days.”

 

“January 19, 1933

This morning after days of agonizing waiting and cramming the mid-year period opened with Chemistry A. The exam was not too hard, or perhaps it was because I was reasonably well prepared. Anyway, it was a good solid, three hours of work, no time to waste in idle speculation or wrong work. The whole thing passed off fairly well.

After the exam hastened home to Providence on first train. While waiting for it at the South Station I went into that ingenuous little theater attached to the lobby. A surprising number of people were present and in general it was an enjoyable show.

At Providence went to the Biltmore for supper and then to a fiery hockey game between the Reds & Philadelphia of which the score was tie after a rough game. One man’s leg was broken and there were many fights and scuffles all over the rink. It’s a pity that the attendance at the games is falling off, for I’d like to see Providence regain its old place in hockey circles.”

“February 1, 1933

After registering at the Commodore, the immediate need was theater tickets. After considerable argument a decision was reached to try ‘Design for Living’ of Noel Coward. After a long cross town walk we found no seats at the box office, but a nearby agency sold us some for a dollar more.

Lunch at Childs and then back to the theatre. Of course, every seat was taken, and never have I seen a funnier or cleverer play. The Lunt’s are splendid, of course, and Coward is their equal. The play itself is decidedly unmoral but so cleverly handled and so well phrased that no offense is received by an action. Of course, the one grand line of the play quoted everywhere and featured as the theme of it all is ‘We just had an unpremeditated roll in the hay and enjoyed every damn moment of it.’ The whole thing is a perfectly constructed dramatic unity. Coward surely knows his exits and entrances…”

“March 3, 1933

Having been in Harvard now for something less than six months, I can easily see the origin of the old saying – ‘You can always tell a Harvard man, but you can’t tell him much.’ I fell just that way already.

No one could possibly get away from telling me that there was a place better than Harvard for college education. But even trying to view it dispassionately I can’t see that any other college is superior to Harvard. Here are the most comfortable rooms at the cheapest price, the best food at the least price if I am comparing college in America. The biggest & best college library in the world, the best faculty with the possible exception of Columbia in the world, a perfectly equipped and modern athletic played, and every convenience and every club for any possible specialty or interest a man has. There seems to be only one reason for going to any other university and that tis failing to get into Harvard. Much is said about our snobbery, our shortsightedness and our upstage manners, but even if they do exist they arise from real values, and in spite of these, Harvard still produces the greatest men in the country.”

“April 4, 1933

The jazz mad youth of today – what is it? We hear an awful lot about the worthlessness and depravity of the modern youth, and it’s a question of the greatest interest to both old and young to ascertain the true state of affairs.

I have read a great deal of stuff that tries to point out the dangers and troubles into which the modern youth with his ‘fast living’ is plunging. But never have I seen conclusive evidence on one side or another which would definitely settle the situation (for better or worse).

But of course, there is evidence – perfectly definite evidence which can be gathered at any gathering of young people and from observation of parking places etc. The tempo of life of the young people of today is definitely ‘fast.’ How could it be anything else. They are supplied with autos, money, and all the things that lead inevitably to such a condition, and they are not really masters of their fate.

There is a terrific lot of bad stuff, of dangerous stuff going on today. Liquor is the big complicating factor. Drunkenness has become a state which if not actually respected (although it often really is) is always tolerated and smiled upon. This is a tremendous change from the standards of the last generation. It seems to me to presage the breaking up of family life as we knew it. No one can face his family dead drunk and if drinking is going on increasing as it is a separation must ensure. What the factor is behind this trend is impossible to day – it’s probably a complication of several influences – the reaction after the war, the 19th amendment itself a product of the reaction, the hastened tempo of modern life in all its mechanical aspects, the present-day trend toward freedom of all sorts without consideration of what it will lead to. All these things are easy to understand and to explain, but there is one thing that seems peculiar and that is the laxity of parental control. There seems to be no effort on their part to regulate the lives of their children of at least a great lack of success in so doing.

There is of course in discussing such a question great danger of falling into alarmist attitudes. The whole importance of the situation is easily exaggerated and distorted and it is difficult to ascertain the true condition. There is however one point that cannot be over emphasized in my mind, the sexual side of the modern youth’s mind.

Moral freedom, liquor, and the growth of contraception devices have led to greatly increased sexual consciousness among young people. Necking and petting have become the stock-in-trade of any girl who wishes popularity – indeed the willingness to enter into this form of entertainment is almost a vital necessity or popularity. It may be argued that this matters little – the girl is not harmed and it doubtless is good fun. But it is definitely harmful. It encourages belief in a general promiscuity in later years. It destroys all the self-control man has built up over centuries of civilization, and it breaks down any class distinction which the socially important fiend necessary to maintain their dignity & prestige before the masses. Here again it seems parents fail in their duties as guiding influences and control in the lives of their children. Chaperonage could be demanded as it was in by gone years, and much could be done to clear up a bad situation. But the parents seem afraid of their children – afraid of their contempt and disloyalty if they try to force any such measures over them.

The whip rests with the younger generation and they are using it only to speed their own course down the way to self-destruction and ruin.

There is a great deal of really good in the modern youth which was not found in the old days – a courage, a frankness, and a lighthearted philosophy which is very fine and to be commended. But these things cannot conquer over the uncontrolled base emotions of the human animal. We must fight always to control these sides of our nature in order to produce anything of real value. Lust and sloth must be kept always in check or we go to ruin. Once laxity creeps into our moral issues it spreads in a mushroom growth over all our lives. It must be checked.”