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A Brief Analysis: the Historic Drug Store

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A Brief Analysis: The Historic Drug Store
William Murphy
Lakewood College

Abstract
This paper explores the article, “The Historic Drugstore,” published by the William A. Soderland, Sr. Pharmacy Museum, sponsored by Soderlund Village Drug that examines the evolution of the American drug store with particular emphasis on the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The pharmacy museum is located at Soderlund Village Drug in downtown St. Peter, Minnesota and provides a unique perspective about the history of the drug store.

A Brief Analysis: The Historic Drug Store
The drug store, as we know it today, is quite uniquely an American concept. According to Soderlund Village Drug (2004), beyond offering traditional pharmaceutical goods, drug stores were a driving force for community action, social gastronomies and related human interactions. Explained in great detail by Joseph Fink (2012), during the early 1800's a group of concerned Philadelphia based apothecaries met to discuss the declining trade environment and ways to enhance scientific standards to protect public safety and welfare, as well as to provide improved competency levels of training for apprentices and students within the industry. The result of this meeting was the establishment of the first college to train pharmacists in the United States known as the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, and a prescient foretelling of changes to come.
There are two main contenders in the first drugstore in America game. The first claim is attributed to a drug store located in Fredericksburg, Virginia, a rural establishment that Martha Washington was supposed to have frequented as a patient around the time of the Revolutionary War. This drug store did not maintain a licensed Pharmacist, which lends closer scrutiny to a second claim. During 1804, the State of Louisiana enacted a law that mandated licensing requirements for pharmacists wishing to practice the profession. The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum (2013) reports that Louis J. Dufilho, Jr. was the first citizen to pass the licensing exam, thus further establishing his basis as the first legitimate pharmacy to operate within the United States of America.
As noted above, the concept of the American drug store can be traced as far back as the early colonial period of American history. However, the meteoric rise of the American drug store concept as we now understand really began during the Civil War era of the 1860's. Factors including a mass mobilization and production surge, increased population and growing scientific awareness all contributed to the impetus for the discovery of new drugs and medical techniques. Before the Civil War, Medical knowledge was sorely lacking and haphazardly based on centuries of trial and error outcomes using oftentimes ineffective techniques. Despite the lack of then quantifiable empirical evidence, some medical and pharmaceutical antidotes did seem to miraculously help many patients.
The American Civil War helped to define the growth of the pharmaceutical industry including the face and shape of pre- and post-contemporary drug stores. Concepts such as medical dispensaries, as explained by G.J. Higby (1994), were utilized with extraordinary effectiveness and tremendous efficiencies were achieved in these growth areas. Most raw drugs used in the United States during the mid-1800s were imported and during the Civil War, imports into the North continued, but the Union blockade forced the Confederacy to obtain medicines through means such as smuggling, capture of enemy supplies, and processing of indigenous medicinal plants. Key concepts began to develop and pharmacist officers assumed responsibilities over the dispensary operations similar to medical storekeepers and non-commissioned officers became hospital stewards with duties such as dispensing drugs under supervision of pharmacists and medical physicians. The models developed during the Civil War played an influential role in the rapidly growing civilian drug store and pharmaceutical industry.
Times have changed dramatically from the previous two centuries. The American drug store concept has faded away and evolved into a corporate greed machine comprised of a series of impersonal numbered units. Many independent pharmacies were driven out of business when big-box and chain retail pharmacies proliferated in the 1980's. Karen Klein (2012) cautions only about half of independent pharmacies are located in cities with populations of 20,000 or fewer. We are poised on the verge of a new revolution in the pharmaceutical industry, with the players and concepts of the future being developed by players of today.

References
G.J., Higby (1994). American hospital pharmacy from the Colonial period to the 1930s. American Journal Hospital Pharmacists.
Joseph L., Fink (2012). Pharmacy: A Brief History of the Profession. Retrieved from http://studentdoctor.net/2012/01/pharmacy-a-brief-history-of-the-profession/
Karen E., Klein (2012). End of days for independent pharmacies. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-03-08/end-of-days-for-independent-pharmacies
New Orleans Pharmacy Museum (2013). The history of Louis J. Dufilho, Jr. Retrieved from http://www.pharmacymuseum.org/
William A. Soderland, Sr. Pharmacy Museum sponsored by Soderlund Village Drug (2004). The historic drugstore. Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20101121153946/http://drugstoremuseum.com/sections/level_info2.php?level_id=49&level=1.

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