Hundred-year-old medicine dosing glass advertising the Joseph T. Stokes Pharmacies, once in Indianapolis. Item recently sighted on eBay.
The Joseph T. Stokes Pharmacies – 226 N. Meridian Street – 607 Hume-Mansur Building
As the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis tells us, the first pharmacist in the territory was undoubtedly a native healer, dispensing comfort and hope in the form of compounded indigenous roots, berries, and leaves.
Early European pioneers relied on traditional remedies, superstitions, and nostrums brought with them from their place of origin, since there were few physicians to prescribe medicines in this region until the mid-19th century. An apothecary of the time might offer compounded and patent remedies as well as paint, glass, lumber, dyes, tobacco, candies and pest poisons to supplement meager prescription drug sales.
In those early days, it took little more than a capital investment to get started in the trade. Though some pharmacists trained by apprenticeship, a formal education would not be available in the area for decades. So, of course, Indianapolis had a drug store on almost every corner by 1840.
Names of notable pharmaceutical pioneers are still well known in Indianapolis today: Col. Eli Lilly, John N. Hurty, John Hook, and Julius Haag. The professionalization of drug dispensing in our state is due in large part to the work of these men and the organizations and laws they nurtured from 1882 – 1914:
– Indiana Pharmacists Association
– Indiana Association of Retail Druggists
– Indiana Board of Health
– national and state Food and Drug Acts
– Indiana College of Pharmacy
Our advertising novelty of the week: a Stokes Pharmacy dosing glass found on eBay, comes to us from this era of nascent pharmaceutical regulation — the 19-teens and -twenties. By all accounts, the “Joseph T. Stokes Pharmacies” was located in the late, great Hume Mansur Building. It was touted in the 1912 national Druggists Circular as a “leading Indianapolis pharmacy.”
Space in the Hume-Mansur building, the newest and most modern office building in Indianapolis, was eagerly sought by physicians. Accordingly, the management set aside two floors to be used by them. Then, to maintain a high standard, the management made such requirements of tenants that only reputable physicians could obtain suites. Fifty-seven physicians are now located in this building… Joseph T. Stokes and C.H. Ferris, pharmacists, saw an opportunity in the colony thus established, and secured the exclusive right to sell drugs and fill prescriptions in the building. They obtained a suite on the fifth floor, in the heart of the colony… this is the first pharmacy of its kind in the State of Indiana, and the Messrs. Stokes and Ferris believe that few cities in the United States can boast of such an establishment.
None of the features of the modern department drug store is to be found in this store. China, cigars, toilet sets, sodas and nostrums that give a bizarre effect to so many drug stores are not to be found in the Stokes-Ferris Pharmacies. In their place is a fully equipped prescription department.” — Druggists Circular, 1912
Vintage newspaper articles tell of a minor burglary and diving accident from which Stokes recovered, but not much is easily revealed about the fate of the tiny pharmacy that quietly served the patients of Hume-Mansur physicians, away from the dust and hub-bub of street level business. The pharmacy disappears from newspaper mention and city directories in the mid-1920s. At the moment, the only tangible evidence of its existence is the “attic mint condition” dosing glass.
Joseph T. Stokes and his wife, Marjorie Mary Husbands McNeill (1886-1972), are buried at Crown Hill Cemetery.
Do you have a family story to tell about the Stokes Pharmacy, or other businesses in the historic Hume-Mansur building?
Share your comments in the space below!