Virginia’s One-Stop Lip Hydration Station

Posted: December 21, 2023

What’s your go-to winter weather gear? Gloves? A stocking cap? Thick wool socks? What about something else you can put on, something that is essential for preventing and healing chapped lips? That’s right, we’re talking about lip balm. And if you’re fond of the one-stop lip hydration station most people use these days, you have a Virginian to thank!

In the 1800s, Dr. Charles Browne Fleet was a pharmacist in Lynchburg, Virginia, who liked to experiment with different remedies for his customers. By the end of the century, Dr. Fleet created a treatment to prevent chapped lips. Dr. Fleet developed the balm, but the product didn’t gain success until a fellow Lynchburgian made a critical packaging improvement.

In 1912, Dr. Fleet’s friend John Morton bought the formula and rights to the product for $5. Dr. Fleet’s version was inconvenient and clumsily wrapped in foil, so after the purchase, Morton and his wife turned to the drawing board, asking themselves, ‘how can we make this marketable?’

ChapStick® on display at the Science Museum in The Forge. ChapStick® promotional lip balm jar replica is on loan from Dr. Denise Walters.

The Mortons sought to improve the product’s functionality while experimenting with the formula. Mrs. Morton melted the mixture, cooled it and cut it into sticks. The cooled sticks were placed in adjustable brass tubes and voilà: a new, easy-to-use ChapStick® was born!

A.H. Robins Company acquired ChapStick® from Morton Manufacturing Company in 1963 and moved the operations from Lynchburg to Richmond, Virginia. Lip balm connoisseurs all over the country use ChapStick® that was manufactured and packaged at a facility in Richmond, the very same city in which the Science Museum is located.

The next time you reach for ChapStick® to soothe your dry lips, know that you’re holding hundreds of years of Virginia history and an innovation that has stood the test of time. We’re talking about you, adjustable tube!

Celebrate ChapStick®, other important inventions from Virginia and the Virginia innovators themselves by visiting the products showroom in The Forge.