Sue Young Histories

James Horlicks 1844 - 1921

January 02, 2009

James Horlicks 1844

Horlicks was a concentrated and easily digestible food drink, widely praised and recommended by homeopaths.

The founders, James and William Horlicks, were born in 1844 and 1846 respectively at Ruardean in Gloucestershire. When they reached their late teens both men went to London, where James joined a homeopathic chemist in Bond Street and William a saddler in Lisle Street, where he became a fully-fledged mechanic.

In 1869,William left for the US and worked for a year or two with a distant cousin in the quarrying business at Racine, Wisconsin. Meanwhile, James qualified as a pharmacist (also in 1869).

Before leaving England in 1873, he was working on a dried infant food prepared from malt and bran to mix with milk and water. James could not raise the necessary capital to market and produce a new drink himself in London and so left to join his brother in America.


  • 1875: Business moves to larger premises at Racine, Wisconsin, with an abundant supply of spring water.
  • 1883: U.S. patent 278,967 granted to William for first malted milk drink mixing powder with hot water.
  • 1890: James returns to London to set up an office importing U.S.-made product.
  • 1906: Slough selected as site for new factory (see picture).
  • 1908: Factory construction completed at a cost of £28,000.
  • 1914: James is made a baronet. World War I sees extensive use of this nutritional drink at home and at the Front.
  • 1921: Death of James leads the company to split, with William having responsibility for the Americas and the sons of Sir James having the rest of the world.
  • 1928: William Horlick High School is founded just north of the Horlicks’ headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin.
  • 1931: “Night Starvation” story developed to promote Horlicks as a bedtime drink.
  • 1935: Richard E. Byrd names the Horlick Mountains on the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf after William, in appreciation of his support. A small factory opens in Australia for the local market, including New Zealand. Horlicks milky chocolate flavoured disks in paper packets, which were eaten as candy, were marketed in the USA via radio commercials touting the ease with which they could be taken to school by children. In America, Horlicks Tablets were sold as a candy. They were offered in a glass bottle resembling an aspirin jar. These tablets were used during World War II as an energy boosting treat by US, UK and other soldiers. Today, these are packaged in foil pouches, manufactured in Malaysia as Horlicks Malties, and found on the Internet.
  • 1936: William Horlick dies, aged ninety.
  • 1945: The U.S. company is acquired by the British Horlicks business.
  • 1952: Horlicks is linked to the successful treatment of gastric ulcers and some forms of diabetes.
  • 1960: A factory is built in Punjab, India, to make Horlicks from buffalo milk.
  • 1968: Factory built in Punjab, Pakistan, to supply local demand (including East Pakistan, now Bangladesh).
  • 1969: Horlicks acquired by the Beecham Group.
  • 1975-1978: Factory construction and expansion in Andhra Pradesh.
  • 1989: Beecham Group becomes SmithKline Beecham.
  • 2001: SmithKline Beecham becomes GlaxoSmithKline.


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