Selma native invented Vicks Vapo Rub
Lunsford Richardson (pictured right), born in 1854 on a farm near Selma, rose to fame as the inventor of Vick's Vapo Rub. After graduating from Davidson College at the top of his class, he became a teacher and then a pharmacist, working out of Dr. Joshua Vick's drugstore in Selma. While in Johnston County, he invented Richardson's Croup and Pheumonia Cure Salve and later changed the name to Vick's Salve in honor of Dr. Vick.
Here's how the story goes: When his young son, Smith, suffered recurring bouts of croup, Richardson simply wanted to make his son better. The North Carolina pharmacist had some vague ideas of what might work. He turned out to be right.
Richardson arranged to borrow Dr. Vick's laboratory to do some experimenting. At first none of his experiments paid off but then one day he came across a little-known Japanese extract and mixed it with some ingredients he had on hand to create a salve. This he rubbed on his son the next time the boy had croup. It seemed to help.
Then he offered it to some of his neighbors for them to use on their own children. Again it seemed to help.
That is when Lunsford Richardson began to market his “Croup and Pneumonia Cure." The salve made use of the Japanese mint oil extract called “menthol” mixed with camphor and eucalyptus oil in a petroleum jelly base. It vaporized by body heat alone and was also safe on the skin.
He did so well, in fact, that by 1909 he sold his drugstore and invested his life savings into building a laboratory of his own to manufacture and market the medicine.
By this time his son, Smith, was grown and working with his dad. Smith Richardson convinced his father that the medicine would sell better if it had a catchier name. They decided to name the product after Richardson’s brother-in-law and to call it something different.
The name was then changed to Vapo-Rub and a nationwide advertising campaign made the name a household word. In 1905, Mr. Richardson convinced the Postal Service to allow him to mass-mail his advertising circulars simply to "boxholder" instead of individuals. Because this marked the first such mailing, Mr. Richardson gained the dubious distinction of also being known as "the father of junk mail."