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Past Treasures

"Such a library as ours would not only contain books and current periodicals,
but there would be...articles of historic, scientific, and artistic interest."

~ Frank C. Patten, Head Librarian of Rosenberg Library, 1904 - 1934

The Library accepted its first museum piece shortly after it opened in 1904. Since then, thousands of rare and interesting objects from around the world have been added to the collection. Displayed in these pages are the Library's "Treasures of the Month."

April 2008 "Treasure of the Month"

Galveston's Old Drugstores


During the month of April 2008, the Rosenberg Library exhibited a number of interesting artifacts related to the history of pharmacy in the city. These included a box of prescriptions from Star Drugstore from the 1920s, pill boxes from Leinbach’s and Garbade’s drugstores, and mortars and pestles for mixing medicines. There was even a bottle of award-winning cologne made at Schott’s Drugstore in 1875.

Prescription box with orders

The history of pharmacy in Texas dates to 1682, when Spanish missionaries in El Paso began dispensing medicines to Native Americans who were suffering from epidemic disease. During this period, herbs, concoctions, and even magic were used to treat the sick. After Texas was settled, pioneer physicians continued to utilize local vegetation for home remedies and adopted methods developed by Native American medicine men. Medicines were often prepared at a patient’s bedside from various herbs carried by doctors on horseback. Eventually, Texas doctors began making up large quantities of different medicines and keeping supplies of these formulas stocked in their homes or offices. These primitive “drugstores” evolved into the larger commercial industry of drug sale and manufacturing.

Most early drugstores were run by physicians who opened them in conjunction with their medical practices. Later, individuals who trained as chemist-pharmacists became dealers in drugs and medicine. They also distributed goods such as perfumes, colognes, soaps, mineral waters, fountain sodas, and candy. In 1893, the state’s first pharmacy school opened at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

Prior to the 20th century, there was little control over the sale and distribution of drugs. Harmful narcotics, barbiturates, and other commonly abused or addictive drugs were prescribed without any regulations. In 1929, the Texas Pharmacy Law was passed, requiring that any applicant for pharmacy registration must be a graduate of a recognized school of pharmacy.

Photo captions:
1. Mortars, pestles, and pillboxes, ca. late 19th and early 20th century (gifts of the Morgan Family, the Estate of Alice Cavin, and Lise Darst).
2. This award-winning cologne was prepared at the J. J. Schott Drugstore in 1875. It took home a silver medal from the Texas State Fair in Houston that year (gift of J. J. Schott).
3. Antique prescription box with orders from 1902 - 1920. The prescriptions were filled by various Galveston pharmacies including Witherspoon's, Garbade's, and Star Drug Store (gift of Edwards Pharmacy).


The Treasure of the Month is located on the library’s historic second floor near the East Entrance. It can be viewed during regular library hours, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, please contact the Museum Office at 409-763-8854 x 125.

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