By the 1850s, the pharmacy became big business in America. Americans increasingly found the availability of retail drug stores convenient and affordable. When a customer entered a drug store, they would see the Apothecary (owner of the drug store) managing pharmacists, employing sales and stock clerks and providing quality product based on the United States Pharmacopeia. The future of the pharmaceutical profession looked promising for growth and potential. However, this was not simply the case. Salespeople outside of the pharmacy began imitating and selling imitations of products sold in drugstores. Not only were customers unaware of the falsehood of their purchases but that some of the drugs they purchased also posed a danger to public health. The American Pharmaceutical Association was aware that there was no effective way to regulate these false remedies. Even with this growing threat to the professional pharmaceutical business, Pharmacist’s could not find a way to combat the problem even though possible solutions were sought and discussed (1).
Shortly after 1852, the newly established American Pharmaceutical Association dealt with some serious issues affecting the pharmaceutical profession. The financial crisis, brought on by a world trade economic problem, slowed pharmaceutical commerce, and this caused many retail drug stores to close down. Between the years 1860 and 1865, the Civil War, like other wars before, strengthened the professional side of pharmacy by the speedy fulfillment of medicine to the battlefield. The fast pace that continued in peacetime after the war allowed pharmacists to re-open the market but, capitalism once again affected the profession. The fast production of medicines and remedies meant less quality of the product. Between 1880 and 1890, state regulators addressed the problem by expediting the regulation of the manufacturing and sale of drugs. This improved the quality of pharmaceuticals, thus strengthening public safety and contributed to consumer satisfaction once again (2).
As physicians and pharmacists separated their profession, pharmacists concentrated specifically on their chemistry skills to create custom medicines and remedies for patient comfort. Pharmacists labeled their medications with their name and photo and directions for use of the product. By doing this pharmacists stood by his or her product to ensure the product was legitimate and safe. Factories increased the production of pills by using a press to replicate them. However, mass production decreased the value of the product. To change this, pharmacist’s added a variety of store features in order to entice customers. These included refreshing soda fountains, photography supplies, veterinary products and women’s cosmetics (3).
As business improved at the turn of the century, capitalism inadvertently sent the pharmaceutical profession spinning ahead to meet demands of industrialism and twentieth-century innovation. Customers could still enjoy the convenience of a speedy Medicine, and medicinal remedies and they could trust the product was worth every penny spent. The convenience of mass marketing and capitalism both supported the development of the American pharmacy into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
(1) Glenn Sonnedecker, The American Practice of Pharmacy, 1902-1952, in Gregory Higby and Elaine Condouris Stroud, American Pharmacy (1852-2002): A Collection of Historical Essays (Madison, WI: American Institute of the History of Pharmacy, 2005), 5-6.
(2) Ibid., 6.; For general information (not a scholarly source) on the financial crisis see, Panic of 1857, last modified on May 16, 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1857
(3) Sonnedecker, 6.