Colonel Eli Lilly

Colonel Eli Lilly moved to Indiana in his teenage years. He attended Indiana Asbury University (now DePauw University). At an early age, Lilly developed an interest in chemicals and pharmaceuticals. After completing a four-year apprenticeship at Henry Lawrence’s Good Samaritan Drugstore in Lafayette, he worked at a few more Hoosier drugstores before opening his own in 1861.

A few months after setting up shop in Greencastle, Lilly enlisted in the Union Army. After recruiting a company of men to serve with him in the 18th Independent Battery Indiana Light Artillery — also known as Lilly’s Hoosier Battery — Lilly was promoted to major, gaining command of the 9th Regiment Indiana Cavalry. He was captured by the Confederate Army in September 1864 and released in a prisoner exchange in January 1865. In recognition of his service and bravery, Lilly earned the rank of lieutenant colonel upon returning to duty.

After the war, Lilly failed to successfully run a plantation in Mississippi, which prompted him to return to Indianapolis and pursue the pharmaceutical field. In 1876, he opened Eli Lilly, Chemist, which eventually became Eli Lilly and Company, one of the most respected pharmaceutical companies in the world and the largest corporation in Indiana. Lilly turned management of the company over to his son in 1890. Lilly went on to become an active civil leader and philanthropist. He was a staunch advocate for federal regulation of the pharmaceutical industry, and several of his suggested reforms were enacted into law a few years after his death, resulting in the creation of the Food and Drug Administration.

Colonel Eli Lilly


  • Beneath the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument lies the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum.
  • Eli Lilly and Company played an important role in delivering medicine to the victims of the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
  • The Lilly Endowment remains as one of the largest charitable foundations in the world.