Kiehl's Since 1851

Since 1851

For women, men and babies

A long-standing New York institution, Kiehl’s began as a typical 19th century apothecary in 1851 supplying New Yorkers with pharmaceutical tonics and medicinal salves culled from natural ingredients. Located at 13th Street and Third Avenue, the pharmacy first opened under the ownership of Mr. John Kiehl. A gentleman by the name of Mr. Irving Morse, a graduate of the pharmacology school at Columbia University, apprenticed under Mr. Kiehl until 1921. Mr. Irving Morse purchased the pharmacy in that year keeping the Kiehl name, as it had already established itself as a reputable business in the community. In doing so, Mr. Morse became the first proprietor of what was to become a third generation family-owned business. He expanded the business into a full-service pharmacy, stocking such items as teas, herbs, tinctures, honeys, and the first ever Kiehl brand products.

Mr. Aaron Morse, Irving’s son, who also was a Columbia University graduate in pharmacology, solidified the framework for Kiehl’s that exists today. Aaron grew up alongside his father at the Kiehl store; therefore, it was a natural transition when Aaron took over the Kiehl’s helm in 1961, building the brand and carrying on the heritage of quality and service for which Kiehl’s Pharmacy had become known.

During World War II, Mr. Aaron Morse became a fighter pilot. While stationed in New Mexico, he discovered America’s first fluoride treatment. He also went on to help formulate penicillin, and became a pioneer in the development of a chemical ingredient instrumental in fighting Tuberculosis. Additionally, he supplied the government with a special aloe vera cream to use for radiation burns. Mr. Morse owned his own pharmaceutical company, Morse Laboratories, which would in later years add to his experience in manufacturing cosmetic products. In recognition of his commitment to excellence and the Kiehl tradition of quality, the Smithsonian Institution’s Public Health and Pharmacy exhibit featured in 1979 over 103 products of Kiehl’s, many of which have since become part of the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent archive.

Throughout his life, Mr. Morse had many passions, including aerobatic stunt airplanes, racing cars, and vintage motorcycles, which he collected and eventually displayed at Kiehl’s store on Third Avenue for our patrons to enjoy. The story goes that Mr. Morse noticed that in the early years, when couples would come into Kiehl’s, the gentlemen did not seem particularly interested in cosmetic products. Mr. Morse therefore decided to bring his personal collection of cars and airplanes into the store to “entertain” the men while the women shopped. The entire collection remained on display from 1978 until 1990. In addition, Mr. Morse displayed his collection of vintage motorcycles acquired from his early riding days. To this day, a number of Mr. Morse’s treasured motorcycles remain on display in our store.

Over the years, Mr. Morse developed his own special and unique way of “holding court” at Kiehl’s. He was wise, generous, and kind and did not judge people by conventional standards. More importantly, he loved to help people both personally and through his business. Mr. Morse set an example for everyone at Kiehl’s to follow.

Aaron’s daughter, Jami, having been involved in Kiehl’s during her entire life, assumed the position of President and CEO in 1989. Aaron remained as a most- valued and actively involved consultant until his passing in 1995.

The Kiehl’s tradition continued under the careful guidance of Jami and her husband, Klaus Heidegger, a former World Cup ski champion from Austria. Together, they remained true to the basic principles of Kiehl’s and continued to develop and expand the product line. One such expansion was their development of an All-Sport line of products for sports’ enthusiasts inspired by Klaus’ many years of experience as a world-class athlete. Another niche was filled by the development of a line of products for babies and children, which was introduced after the birth of their first daughter, Nicoletta, in 1991. Nicoletta has since grown up to become an award-winning equestrienne, spurring Kiehl’s on to create a line of grooming products of a “show-quality” standard for horses and ponies.

Over the years and through the generations, Kiehl’s has continued to grow, not as a result of advertising and self-promotion, but rather, as a result of the quality of our products, our commitment to providing exemplary service, and through word-of-mouth recommendations. By the late 1990’s, significant efforts were being made internally to restrain the company’s growth; however, controlling this growth had become increasingly difficult to accomplish as demand for Kiehl preparations continued to increase daily. While grateful that there were so many requests for Kiehl products, Jami and Klaus had always vowed never to sacrifice quality for quantity. Therefore, in order to keep up with the overwhelming product demand and still maintain the high quality for which Kiehl products are known, Jami and Klaus decided that it would be best to join forces with a proven and long-recognized leader within the beauty industry who could help Kiehl’s achieve this goal and thereby further service our customers. To this end, Kiehl’s Since 1851 joined forces with L’Oréal in 2000.

Kiehl’s has remained dedicated to the quality of providing superior service for its valued customers. We at Kiehl’s are very committed to furthering the Mission of Kiehl’s as established and set forth by the Morse family.

Kiehl’s, as always, is a place where people have come to expect integrity, as well as very personalized service. While certain changes and transformations have transpired throughout our rich history, the values that made Kiehl’s such a unique and positive place from the very beginning still hold true today.


“A worthwhile firm must have a purpose for its existence. Not only the everyday work-a-day purpose to earn a just profit, but beyond that, to improve in some way the quality of the community to which it is committed. Each firm—as should each person—contributes to those around it; and by dint of its day-to-day efforts, the message it thereby imparts is a revelation of the quality standard at which its life’s work is conducted.

We here at Kiehl’s hope that through the quality of our products, by the manner in which our day-to-day contacts are concerned with truth, justice, and fairness, we can in some way communicate to those who may not have been aware of it that these qualities are eternal and renewable every day, making for better citizens, better firms, and better communities.”