Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Evolution of the Drug Store

Butte druggist C. B. Hoskins had been in the pharmacy business more than forty years when he reminisced in 1931. When he started in the business in 1883, he had to make his own mixtures, fluid extracts, pills, and emulsions. He had to know his ingredients and the effects they would bring. There were not so many items in the inventory, but the reactions they caused were very well understood.  Physicians carefully monitored their patients, and if the prescribed drug did not work, physicians blamed the pharmacist for not correctly mixing the doctor’s prescription.

Hoskins's drug store would have looked much like this one.
Courtesy Montana State University Libraries
A druggist usually had an apprentice who learned the trade under him. Druggists were responsible for all aspects of their apprentice’s education. Many highly skilled druggists never saw the inside of a school. Hoskins pointed out how things had changed. Fifty years ago, he recalled, druggists made all the pills. But by 1930, there were so many manufacturers that druggists had become only servers. The shelves were stocked with pills of all kinds, ready made. All you had to do was count them out, and the druggist, once paid for his knowledge of mixing, now made only a small service charge. Radio advertising created a demand for a number of things, and unlike printed advertising that carried responsibility for the product, radio advertising could say anything with no consequence. Hoskins went on to lament that the student of today who went to pharmacy school learned all kinds of chemistry that really didn't help him in the job. He should be learning other skills, he said, like stocking notions, selling hardware, and making ham sandwiches.

1 comment:

  1. Hoskin's drug store probably started out something like the photo, but for much of the 1910s-20s Hoskins occupied the store at the northern edge, first floor, of the Owsley Block, 12 N. Main St. in Butte. The leftmost shop in the image here: . Thanks Ellen for another great post!