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Willis Sharpe Kilmer

Willis Sharpe Kilmer
Born 18, 1869(1869-Template:MONTHNUMBER-18)
Died 12, 1940 (aged 70)
Resting place Template:Coord/display/inline,title
Residence Binghamton, NY
Nationality United States
Education Cornell University
Occupation advertising, newspaperman, horse breeder, and entrepreneur
Home town Binghamton, New York
Net worth $10-$15 million in 1940
Parents Jonas M. Kilmer, Julia Sharpe Kilmer
Relatives Dr. Sylvester Andral Kilmer, Joyce Kilmer

Willis Sharpe Kilmer (October 18, 1869 - July 12, 1940), son of Jonas M. Kilmer and Julia E. Sharpe, was a marketing pioneer, newspaperman, and horse breeder. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he attended Cornell University for several years until 1880. Kilmer was perhaps best known for advertising and promoting his Uncle's Swamp Root patent medicine formula until it became a household name.

Dr. S. Andral Kilmer invented the formula and invited his brother Jonas to run the business end of the company in 1881. Jonas would later buy out his brother and bring in his son Willis to handle the marketing and advertising. As the business became successful, they eventually constructed the six-story Kilmer Building in downtown Binghamton, NY as their manufacturing and business headquarters in 1903. The Swamp Root formulation fell out of favor with the advent of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which resulted in the federal government imposing testing and labeling requirements on a variety of products, specifically patent medicines with dubious claims.
File:Kilmer mausoleum.jpg
Kilmer mausoleum in 2009

The decline in the patent medicine business led to a branching out into other businesses. He was extensively involved in real estate, owning a family mansion in Binghamton, NY, constructing the twelve story Press Building in downtown Binghamton as a home for another new business he created, The Binghamton Press Co., building several other less-prominent buildings in downtown Binghamton, and three racing stables and estates: Sun Briar Court in Binghamton, Court Manor in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and Remlik, on the banks of Virginia's Rappahannock River. Kilmer's private yacht Remlik was purchased by the US Navy during World War I and converted into the USS Remlik, the name being Kilmer spelled backwards.

Kilmer died in 1940 from pneumonia having amassed a fortune of some $15 million, mostly from the sale of the patent medicine Swamp Root tonic, which is still for sale today.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10] After his death, Kilmer was interred at a mausoleum in Floral Park Cemetery in the Binghamton suburb of Johnson City, NY.

Thoroughbred racing

Kilmer was the breeder of Reigh Count, the winner of the 1928 Kentucky Derby. He was the owner of Exterminator, the winner of the 1918 Kentucky Derby and 1922 American Horse of the Year, and the breeder and owner of Sun Beau, the largest money maker until Seabiscuit in 1939. Both Exterminator and Sun Beau were elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

See also

  • Court Manor



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