Tag Archives: vintage drug store

Beyond the Map: Using a Gazetteer

Though it began with an 1883 map, this research adventure took a very different turn as I fell “down, down, down” into a ‘rabbit hole’.

“[I] found [my]self falling down a very deep well…[I] saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs…I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen by this time…I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth…but then I wonder what latitude or longitude I’ve got to?”

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~rgs/alice-I.html

The New England Business Directory and Gazetteer dated 1883 is a treasure trove of historical information. Although I began by examining the map insert, I promptly realized the historic value of the Gazetteer. Researchers do not always dedicate any significant amount of time to the front cover, yet in this case it deserves close inspection.

Front Cover

Advertisements on the front cover include seven for businesses located in Boston, Pierce & Linsley Lumber in Saginaw, Michigan and James A. Webb’s Alcohol and Cologne Spirit at 165 Pearl Street New York “used by druggists and manufacturers throughout the world”. Since I was focusing on New York State history, I decided to research James A. Webb and his business.

Google Book Search- Recommended Book

James A. Webb’s obituary in Practical Druggist and Review of Reviews revealed not only a successful businessman but also a philanthropist.

James A. Webb as pictured in his obituary.

As I scrolled and scanned other articles, I realized that this is a must-read book for those interested in the history of the pharmacy profession, marketing in the late 19th century, the history of medicine as well as those whose ancestors were pharmacists.

Each monthly issue of the Practical Druggist and Review of Reviews A New Dispensatory and Illustrated Journal of Progress in Pharmacy, New Remedies, Chemistry, Therapeutics Conducted by Benjamin Lillard January, 1909 – December, 1910 began with advice on marketing and how to create display windows.

“January is store cleaning time. It is invoice time. It is the time to take out of your regular stock every piece of goods that bears a fly speck, or a discoloration, or fingermarks, or anything that prevents it looking as if were absolutely new and fresh.”

Read the full article:
Gould, M.P. “Drug Store Advertising”. Practical Druggist and Review of Reviews A New Dispensatory and Illustrated Journal of Progress in Pharmacy, New Remedies, Chemistry, Therapeutics Conducted by Benjamin Lillard January, 1909 – December, 1910.

“A timely and appropriate display in honor of St. Patrick’s Day was gotten up last year by a Brooklyn druggist…A green tank of oxygen occupied one of the rear corners and was the cause of some animated discussion on the part of two loyal sons of Erin. One claimed that it was a tank in which liquor was stored on board ship, while the other mistook it for a six-inch gun. The argument was peaceably settled by the affable proprietor.”

Read the full article:
“Window Display in Honor of St. Patrick”. Practical Druggist and Review of Reviews A New Dispensatory and Illustrated Journal of Progress in Pharmacy, New Remedies, Chemistry, Therapeutics Conducted by Benjamin Lillard January, 1909 – December, 1910.

Even with no background or apparent interest in pharmaceuticals, I was intrigued with tongue-in-cheek advice columns. Yet it was the “Timely Soda Fountain Specialties” (130) that evoked memories of the thrill of sipping a root beer float at an old-fashioned soda fountain counter and some “suspicious deaths” (390) which created a bit of intrigue.

Soda Fountain

Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Candy Shop “From the New York Public Library”

Root Beer

  • “Essence Sassafras 2 ozs.
  • Essence Wintergreen 2 ozs.
  • Extract Jamaica ginger 2 drs.
  • Rock Candy syrup 1 gal.
  • Caramel (burnt sugar) sufficient to color”

Root Beer Extract is made by percolating the following ingredients with 2 parts of water to 1 part of alcohol until the drugs are exhausted.”

  • “Sarsaparilla 5 lbs.
  • Spikenard 2 lbs.
  • Wintergreen 1 lb.
  • Birch Bark 1 lb.
  • Sassafras Bark 1 lb.
  • Wild Cherry 8 ozs.
  • Prickly Ash 1 lb.
  • Jamaica Ginger Root 4 ozs.
  • Nutmeg 4 ozs.”

“Did a Druggist Do this?” (390)

“A dozen people in and around the town of Westerly, R.I. died last month under suspicious circumstances. Investigation seems to have proved that in the case of each of these persons death followed closely upon drunken debauch. Westerly is a strict prohibition town, and the sale of liquor in the customary manner is not permitted…The coroner’s conclusion is that wood alcohol caused the deaths. The chemist’s analysis of the suspected whiskey discloses a large proportion, some 73 per cent of wood alcohol in it…It is difficult to conceive of a man so dead to sense of duty and morality as this particular druggist, and no punishment can be too severe for his acts, which do not stop short of murder itself.”

Read the full article and more at: Practical Druggist and Review of Reviews (390)

“There was not a moment to be lost: away went Alice like the wind, and was just in time to hear it say, as it turned a corner, `Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it’s getting!’ ” https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~rgs/alice-I.html

… I emerge from the rabbit hole and view The New England Business Directory and Gazetteer 1883 upon my desk… Shall I venture to turn the first page next time?