Past Treasure of the Month – April 2008

Galveston’s Old Drugstores
Mortars, pestles, and pillboxes, ca. late 19th and early 20th century (gifts of the Morgan Family, the Estate of Alice Cavin, and Lise Darst).Mortars, pestles, and pillboxes, ca. late 19th and early 20th century
(gifts of the Morgan Family, the Estate of Alice Cavin, and Lise Darst).

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).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).

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 ordersAntique 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 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.