Chattem, originally founded as Chattanooga Medicine Company in 1879, began as a small operation within a two-story brick building on a muddy road in Tennessee. The principal founder, Zeboim Cartter Patten, was quickly joined by four other well-known local businessmen who invested in the company. Early products like a senna based laxative called the Black Draught were used for sailors in the British Navy. Later an analgesic balm and a tonic for women called Dr. McElree's Wine of Cardui would be added to their product line. Legend has it that the tonic was created from a botanical seed that Tennessee woman Francis Smith acquired from a Cherokee Indian and then shared with neighbors.
The company was officially renamed Chattem Drug and Chemical Company in the late 1950s when a change of leadership allowed the company to grow and focus more on research and development. Just ten years later, Chattem was acquiring other cosmetic and medication companies and expanding its empire to include a television network that featured live shows and entertainment. Even Dolly Parton appeared on the show to promote a cough medicine!
Fast forward to the most recent years in the company's history, from about 1991 to the present, and a quick look at Chattem's expansive portfolio shows the acquisition of many commonly known consumer health brands like Gold Bond®, phisoderm®, Selsun Blue®, and Allegra®. These successful acquisitions helped to grow the company's sales from $100 million to $400 million in less than twenty years. Currently, Chattem is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the sanofi-aventis Group and serves as a platform for their over-the-counter and consumer health products in the U.S.