Drugs in the Valley: Fifty Years of Merck and Co. Oral Histories, 1941-1991

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Summary Information

Repository:
Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University
Title:
Drugs in the Valley: Fifty Years of Merck and Co. Oral Histories
Collection No.:
SdArch 3
Date:
1941-1991
Extent:
4 folders, 4 audiocassettes, 5 cds, .25 Cubic Feet
Language of the Material:
English
Abstract:
Drugs in the Valley: Fifty Years of Merck and Co. Oral Histories, 1990, is comprised of audio interviews, transcripts, and a background paper, documenting the history of Merck Company from 1941-1990, particularly the Stonewall Plant at Elkton, Virginia.

Preferred Citation

[identification of item], [box #, folder #], Harrisonburg Court Square Oral Histories, 1990, SdArch 3, Special Collections, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.

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Bio/Historical Note

Oral histories were created by Laura Oakes, an undergraduate at JMU, who completed the project as an intern in Special Collections during the summer of 1990.

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Scope and Content

Drugs in the Valley: Fifty Years of Merck and Co. Oral Histories, 1990, is comprised of audio interviews, transcripts, and a background paper, documenting the history of Merck Company from 1941-1991. The collection includes a background paper, written by undergraduate intern, Laura Oakes, that gives a brief chronological history of the growth and development of the pharmaceutical corporation, Merck and Co., Inc. and in particular, one of its manufacturing plants, the Stonewall Plant at Elkton, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley. The collection contains recordings and transcripts of three interviews with former Merck employees: George Elliot Reeke, Olin Norman Leake, and Barry Jay Ream.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collections Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (library-special@jmu.edu).

Acquisition Information

Collection was donated in 1990 by Laura Oakes.

Processing Information

Collection was cataloged at the item level in 1998; the descriptive metadata was compiled into a Finding Aid format in 2019. Cassette tapes were transferred to MAMA-R 700MB gold cd-r using Tascam cc-222 mkII; 618mb. Audio recordings were digitized by Kirsten Mlodynia, Digital Project Specialist at JMU Libraries in July 2018.

Location

Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University

880 Madison DriveMSC 1704Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807library-special@jmu.eduURL: https://www.lib.jmu.edu/special/

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Index Terms

Genre and Form

  • oral histories (literary works)

Personal Name

  • Oakes, Laura

Subject

  • Pharmaceutical industry -- Shenandoah River Valley (Va. and W. Va.) -- History
  • Pharmaceutical industry employees
  • Industrial relations -- Virginia -- Elkton
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Virginia -- Rockingham County
  • Rockingham County (Va.) -- History -- Sources
  • Industries -- Virginia -- Rockingham County -- Sources
  • Rockingham County (Va.) -- Economic conditions
  • Industries -- Shenandoah River Valley (Va. and W. Va.) -- Sources
  • Shenandoah River Valley (Va. and W. Va.) -- Economic conditions -- Sources

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Collection Inventory

Title/Description Instances
Drugs in the Valley: Fifity Years of Merck and Co., 1941-1991, Background Paper, 1990

This monograph records a brief chronological history of the growth and development of the pharmaceutical corporation, Merck and Co., Inc. and in particular, one of its manufacturing plants, the Stonewall Plant at Elkton, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley. Traces the history of the Merck family and its association with pharmaceutical businesses beginning in 17th century Germany to expansion in the U.S. in 1891 where it became an independent entity in 1908. Mentions various family names, including George W. Merck; refers to plant sites including Rahway, New Jersey and specifically the Stonewall Plant at Elkton. Gives background information on the selection of the Virginia site, its 1941 founding and growth, along with mention of the 1977 plant built by Merck, Sharp and Dohme. Explains the purpose of the oral history series in recording the reminiscences of Stonewall plant employees to determine the impact of the plant on the area and the company as a whole, and also the events, etc. in the local community, company and world upon the plant, its employees, and local area. Three employees were chosen to reflect varying viewpoints. They were: G. Elliot Reeke, 39-yr. retired employee (maintenance engineer manager), present from the plant's founding; Olin N. Leake, 38-yr. retired hourly employee (chemical operator), present during the plant's middle and growth years; and Barry Ream, 20-year current employee (administrative manufacturing area head).

Box 1 Folder 1
George Elliot Reeke interviewed by Laura A. Oakes, July 3, 1990

This interview records the recollections of Mr. George Elliot Reeke who was a maintenance engineer from 1941-1980 at the Stonewall Plant at Elkton, Va., a manufacturing plant of the pharmaceutical corporation, Merck & Co. He describes various aspects of work; the impact of the plant on the community and company, and events and changes which impacted on the plant, its employees and local area. Expresses viewpoints from the perspective of an employee who was present at the founding of the plant through its building years. Mentions the building of the plant and its physical layout; descriptions of jobs and key personnel; employment practices (wages, benefits, status of minorities and women); administrative research and production activities (ex. riboflavin process, thiamin, streptomycin, penicillin, atabrin, various vitamins); employer-employee relations; outside activities (clubs, etc.); communication within the plant, safety/quality control measures and health care; transportation of raw materials; company housing; community relations and economic impact; environmental impact (fish kill in the Shenandoah River); and the impact of WWII on the plant, employees and community. Recorded at the home of Mr. George Elliot Reeke of Harrisonburg, Va. on July 3, 1990.

Transcript and Supporting Documents, July 3, 1990 Box 1 Folder 2
Original audiocassette #1, July 3, 1990 Media Cabinet 1 Audiocassette SA003-CS-001
Original audiocassette #2, July 3, 1990 Media Cabinet 1 Audiocassette SA003-CS-002
Preservation master cd #1 Media Cabinet 1 CD SA003-OP-001
Preservation master cd #2 Media Cabinet 1 CD SA003-OP-002
Olin Norman Leake interviewed by Laura A. Oakes, July 12, 1990

This interview records the recollections of Mr. Olin Norman Leake who was a chemical operator from 1948-1986 at the Stonewall Plant at Elkton, Va., a manufacturing plant of the pharmaceutical corporation, Merck & Co. He describes various aspects of work; the impact of the plant on the community and company, and events and changes which impacted on the plant, its employees, and local area. Expresses viewpoints from the perspective of an employee who was present during the middle years of the plant's history (to date). Describes training procedures and the production process for drugs such as streptomycin; (also mentions vitamin B-1, B-12, and chicken feed drugs such as nicarbazine and sulfaquinoxaline). Refers to packaging and sterilization of drugs and process of batch operations. Mentions communication within the plant; safety/accident quality control measures and health care; company housing; community relations and outside activities. Recalls employer-employee relations and employment practices (wages, benefits status of minorities and women); shift work; and the strike of 1984. Talks about impact of WWII on plant, employees and area (blackouts, draft). Mentions competition from international production (ex. Egypt plant), and impact of machinery taking place of workers. Recorded at the home of Mr. Olin Norman Leake of Harrisonburg, Va. on July 12, 1990.

Transcript and Supporting Documents, July 12, 1990 Box 1 Folder 3
Original audiocassette, July 12, 1990 Media Cabinet 1 Audiocassette SA003-CS-003
Preservation master Media Cabinet 1 CD SA003-OP-003
Barry Jay Ream interviewed by Laura A. Oakes, July 18, 1990

This interview records the viewpoints of Mr. Barry Jay Ream, employed since 1970 and now a manufacturing area head at the Stonewall Plant at Elkton, Va., a manufacturing plant of the pharmaceutical corporation, Merck & Co. He describes various aspects of work; the impact of the plant on the community and company, and events and changes which impacted on the plant, its employees, and local area. Expresses viewpoints from the perspective of an employee who is currently employed and who has knowledge of the plant's present status and insight into its possible future. Discusses various personnel related issues including changes in employer-employee relations, employment practices (wages, benefits, women), labor relations and the strike of 1984, and descriptions of job responsibilities and key positions. Refers to two fairly new divisions of the company (MPMD and MCMD). Mentions the fermentation (microbiological) process and production of vitamin B-12, Mevacor, Primaxin and Carbidoba. Also mentions several accidents and the use of benzene, now known as a carcinogen. Discusses various technological changes; those made by Roy Vagelos; importance of environmental issues; and the growth of generic drugs. Talks about changing management practices resulting in competition between plants with possible plant closing (Cherokee Plant), decentralization versus centralization, and importance of research and international divisions (ex. England and Puerto Rico plants). Mentions relations with the area, in particular, Elkton; also flood of 1985. Recorded at the home of Barry Jay Ream of Elkton, Va. on July 18, 1990.

Transcript and Supporting Documents, July 18, 1990 Box 1 Folder 4
Original audiocassette #1, July 18, 1990 Media Cabinet 1 Audiocassette SA003-CS-004
Original audiocassette #2, July 18, 1990 Media Cabinet 1 Audiocassette SA003-CS-005
Preservation master cd #1 Media Cabinet 1 CD SA003-OP-004
Preservation master cd #2 Media Cabinet 1 CD SA003-OP-005