Josiah Kirby Lilly, Jr. (1893-1966) earned a pharmaceutical degree at the University of Michigan instead of the Philadelphia School of Pharmacy as had his father, Josiah K. Lilly, Sr. (1861-1948), and brother, Eli Lilly II (1885-1977). He joined Eli Lilly & Company in 1914.
His focus was personnel management and marketing aspects of the business. His championship of fair wages and fringe benefits helped give the company a good reputation as an employer. Under the leadership of his father and brother, the company did not lay-off any workers during the Great Depression.
Until 1944, he was Vice President of Eli Lilly & Company. He left that position to lead Eli Lilly International Corporation.
He served as President of Eli Lilly & Company from 1948 to 1953 and was the last family member to personally run the organization. Chairman Eli Lilly II (1885-1977) was reluctant to have someone from outside the family serve as president of Eli Lilly & Company. However, in 1953 Eugene Beesley gained the distinction of becoming the first president of the company from outside the family and it has continued to prosper.
J. K. Lilly, Jr. and his wife Ruth (Brinkmeyer) Lilly had two children: Ruth Lilly (1915-2009) and Josiah K. (“Joe”) Lilly III (1916-1995). “According to the Indianapolis Star, depression, which ran in the family, caused her [Ruth Lilly] to miss part of high school,” The New Yorker’s Dana Goodyear related. “Already sheltered—she was driven around by armed Pinkerton guards, who changed their routes from day to day—she receded further after the Lindbergh kidnapping and a threat against her cousin.”
In 1932, J. K. Lilly, Jr. and Ruth (Brinkmeyer) Lilly purchased the Oldfields estate, which included a châteauesque mansion, from Hugh McKennan Landon. The latter had built the mansion for himself roughly twenty years earlier while he was an executive with the Indianapolis Water Company.
Josiah & Ruth Lilly hired Indianapolis architect Frederick Wallick to make some alterations to the mansion, including the design of a library built at the southern end of the building. It contained J.K. Lilly, Senior’s collection of rare books.
According to Ms. Goodyear, “When Ruth was seventeen, the family moved into Oldfields, a twenty-two-room French-château-style mansion, where the meals were nonetheless, in the words of one visitor, ‘Hoosier homebody’: French onion soup, lamb chops, strawberries and cream. Her bedroom overlooked a ravine designed by the Olmsted brothers’s firm. Ruth’s father, a major collector of rare books, added a library, and in 1954 founded the Lilly Library, at Indiana University, when he donated his twenty thousand volumes and seventeen thousand manuscripts. (He also collected toy soldiers, wooden ships, and stamps, and had a six-thousand-piece gold-coin collection, which now belongs to the Smithsonian.) According to the audio tour at Oldfields, which Ruth and her brother, Joe, gave to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the thick curtains in the loggia were often drawn, for privacy.”
In 1939, J. K. Lilly II and Ruth (Brinkmeyer) Lilly chose a site on the estate southeast of the mansion to construct a house called Newfield for their son J. K. Lilly III and his bride, Jean Heller. The following year, they built a recreational building north of Newfield. It featured indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a garden.
The Lillys had Canadian muralist Douglas Riseborough decorate the mansion with trompe l’œil (photorealistic) wall paintings in the 1950s. They also added portraits by Nattier, Fragonard, Reynolds and Goya, many of which Herman C. Krannert (1887-1972) later purchased from the Lilly estate and donated to the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Between 1954 and 1957, Josiah K. Lilly II donated over 20,000 books, 17,000 manuscripts, oil paintings, and 300 prints to Indiana University. According to Indiana University, “From the mid-1920s until his death, he devoted a great deal of his leisure time to building his collections of books and manuscripts, works of art, coins, stamps, military miniatures, firearms and edged weapons, and nautical models.”
At the dedication of The Lilly Library on October 3, 1960, Frederick B. Adams, Jr., said, “Mr. Lilly’s books cover so many fields that it is difficult to believe that any one man’s enthusiasm could encompass them all. It is equally astounding that he was able to acquire so many books of such scarcity and quality in the short space of 30 years. Money alone isn’t the answer; diligence, courage, and imagination were also essential. The famous books in English and American literature, the books most influential in American life, the great works in the history of science and ideas–all these are among the 20,000 Lilly books in this building.”
 Herman C. Krannert (1887-1972) was a businessman and philanthropist from Chicago who made a fortune in Indiana. He was the founder of the Inland Container Corporation. Like the Lillys, Krannert and his wife, Ellnora (Decker) Krannert, were generous philanthropists active in Illinois and Indiana.