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History of Sargent Welch

For over 151 years, Sargent Welch has been supplying quality laboratory equipment and supplies for education at the best value, and streamlining the way schools and educators shop for science supplies. Here's how it started…

A Total Commitment to the Lab Supply Business
During the time of the Gold Rush in 1849, Ezekiel H. Sargent, a young pharmacist from Boston, moved to Chicago to become a partner in a drugstore, selling assaying and prospecting equipment to gold prospectors passing through on their way West. In 1852, he bought out his partners' share, and renamed his store E.H. Sargent & Company.

In spite of the total destruction of his store in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Sargent's business prospered. Four years later, he moved from the northern edge of what was later to become downtown Chicago, rebuilt, and published his first catalog in 1875 - the first recorded attempt at mail order solicitation in the laboratory supply business.

In 1889, Sargent incorporated his business in Illinois. The sale of the drugstore in 1904 and the acquisition of Richards & Company, Ltd., a New York scientific equipment company, marked Sargent's total commitment to the laboratory supply business. In the years immediately prior to World War I, Sargent established research facilities and manufacturing operations that enabled the company to develop precision instruments.

Sargent's efforts were devoted to manufacturing and supplying laboratory apparatus, chemicals and instruments.

In 1941, Sargent became the first laboratory supply company to open a branch warehouse that would better serve a growing chemical industry at the start of World War II. Sargent moved its headquarters from downtown Chicago to a new and modern manufacturing and warehouse facility on the northwest side. Other sales and distribution centers were subsequently opened nationwide.

A Single Source for Science Education Materials
Meanwhile, in 1880 in a one-room country school in Maquoketa, Iowa, W.M. Welch, a 24 year-old school superintendent, was struggling with the inadequacies of school record keeping systems. It was then that he embarked on one of his first commercial ventures - the development of the nation's first system of awards for school attendance and scholarship including elementary school diplomas.

In 1906 Welch moved to Chicago and incorporated the W.M. Welch Manufacturing Company. Four years later, Welch acquired the Edward P. Martin Company - a manufacturer of science education products - and gradually developed proprietary products for physics, chemistry and biology education.

With the 1957 launching of Sputnik and the 1958 enactment of the National Defense Education Act, federal funds began flowing into the nation's schools at an increasing rate. W.M. Welch Manufacturing Company sales increased dramatically. In 1960, Welch changed its name to the Welch Scientific Company, moved its headquarters to Skokie, Illinois and offered its stock to the public the following year. A public offering of 545,000 shares was NYSE listed in 1963.

Partnering for Science Selection and Value
In 1968, E. H. Sargent Company and the Welch Scientific Company merged under the name Sargent-Welch Scientific Company, thereby forming one of the nation's leading suppliers of science education products.

In early 1989, the Welch Manufacturing Division was sold, and in August 1989, Sargent-Welch was purchased by VWR International, LLC, and became a 100% science education supply business.

In 1993, Sargent-Welch moved to Buffalo Grove, Illinois and continued to market science teaching products to elementary through college institutions, museums and science centers throughout the United States and Canada. The company's international division markets science education products throughout the world.

Sargent Welch Today…
From a history of small, specialized companies in the lab supply and education industries, to a single source for science education materials for every grade level, Sargent Welch helps science educators save time and money with value‐priced science supplies and easy shopping solutions.

Learn more about Sargent Welch.