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Morris & Dickson Co. Since 1841: The Story of an Enduring Family Business

– by Martha Holoubek Fitzgerald –
bookcover

MORRIS & DICKSON CO.
SINCE 1841

Once a main-street shop dispensing tonics and extracts, Morris & Dickson Co. LLC now competes with major players in the pharmaceutical distribution industry. Since 1841 presents an in-depth case study of a family business that has weathered wars, fires, recessions, and the sudden death of four chief executives.

FROM THE INTRODUCTION

Claudius Dickson was a fighter. The foes he faced as a business owner in 1931 could not be as easily dispatched, however, as those he’d faced as a young man in the boxing ring. Critical cash flow. Crushing debt to a New York lender. Retail customers with empty cash registers. A country sliding into the abyss of a great economic depression. And a strong local competitor headed by a former employee. Once a trusted lieutenant, the man’s every success stung like a slap in the face…

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Claudius was no quitter. Deep in his bones, he was a family man, running a family business. Several questions haunted him: Was there any future to supplying drugs wholesale? Could he reap enough income to sustain his workforce and support his stockholders, primarily his beloved Aunt Claudia? Would there be any business left to hand on to his nine-year-old son and ten-year-old daughter?

Morris & Dickson Co. Ltd. dated to 1841. For decades, its fortunes entwined with those of its home in Shreveport, Louisiana, a steamboat port and regional crossroads. Later, the laying of railway lines and arrival of gasoline-powered delivery trucks opened wider markets and revolutionized distribution. The pharmaceuticals trade matured into a sophisticated national network with grand opportunities and more than a few pitfalls.

Morris & Dickson prospered, at first, under Claudius’s direction. In 1930, however, Dickson turned to an East Coast lender for $100,000 in short-term loans. The debt was now $150,000 and coming due. Claudius would have to pay or violate his personal code of ethics.

His family’s business had already weathered civil war and reconstruction, one world war, and several recessions. It had survived two devastating fires and the death of three chief executives, two named Morris and one named Dickson. Would it be Claudius’s role to lock the doors ten years before the company marked its centennial?

(copyright, Paul Meade Dickson, 2016)

ABOUT THE BOOK

A richly sourced and highly
detailed business history

In 1932, one man’s will and wisdom rescued his family’s ninety-year-old business. Fifty years later, his son and grandsons forged anew an agile wholesale and distribution company able to hold its own against the biggest players in the industry.

How does Morris & Dickson Co. thrive while regional competitors disappear? Through a powerful mix of ideas and ideals: Innovation, initiative, integrity. Service. Discipline. And the kind of family spirit that enfolds every employee and draws out the best in each. It’s the M&D Way.

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–  Paul Dickson • Company President  –
Morris & Dickson Co. Since 1841: The Story of an Enduring Family Business

In publishing Since 1841, company president Paul Dickson aims to present an in-depth case study of a fiercely independent, privately owned firm that has evolved with its industry, triumphed over tragedy, and prospered over a remarkable span of time.

Championing independent pharmacies, harnessing new technologies, and relying on the initiative and loyalty of longtime employees, Morris & Dickson proves its mettle day after day, especially in a crisis. In 2005, the company delivered medical supplies to the Gulf Coast in the final hours before Hurricane Katrina arrived and within hours after she left.

“All business leaders can learn from enterprising families like the Dicksons how to adapt an organization to industry change without going against core values,” writes Harvard professor John A. Davis in the foreword. “This book is proof that it can be done. Since 1841 is a richly sourced and highly detailed business history that will inform scholars for many years to come.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author of Morris & Dickson Co. Since 1841

MARTHA HOLOUBEK FITZGERALD

Martha Holoubek Fitzgerald, former business editor and associate editorial page editor for the Shreveport Times, holds degrees in history from Loyola University in New Orleans and Louisiana Tech University. Fitzgerald has been editing, writing, and researching for members of the Dickson family since 2005. She is the owner of Martha Fitzgerald Consulting and Little Dove Press.

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IMAGE GALLERY

  • 1917 Stock Room

    Stock room of Morris & Dickson Co. Ltd., 1917. Floor-to-ceiling shelves filled the upper floors of 220 Travis Street.
    Grabill Collection, Noel Memorial Library, LSU Shreveport

  • 1870s Shopfront

    T. H. Morris (bearded, to right in doorway) at shop on second block of Texas Street in Shreveport, circa 1870s.
    Peggy Marsh Liddell

  • 2016 Sales Territory

    By 2016, Morris & Dickson Co. LLC delivered goods overnight throughout the south-central United States and to Ohio by third-party shipment. Red dots indicate transportation hubs.
    Patti Isaacs

  • Paul Dickson

    Paul Dickson, president of Morris & Dickson Co. LLC and publisher of Since 1841.
    Neil Johnson photo

  • Martha H. Fitzgerald

    Martha Holoubek Fitzgerald, author of Morris & Dickson Co. Since 1841: The Story of an Enduring Family Business.
    Neil Johnson photo

  • 1920s Travis Street

    220 Travis Street, home of Morris & Dickson Co. Ltd. from 1905 to 1984. The fourth floor was added in 1924.
    Morris & Dickson Archives

  • 1930s Travis Street

    Second block of Travis Street in downtown Shreveport, circa 1930. The company began expanding to adjacent buildings in the 1970s.
    Morris & Dickson Archives

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