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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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The Drugstore: 1913

The Drugstore: 1913

1913. No location given. "G.W. Armstrong drugstore." Seidlitz Powders only 25 cents. 8x10 glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Manistee, Michigan

I have no idea where this was taken, but if you are ever in Manistee, Michigan, there is a historical society museum on Water Street that looks very much like this...but with side rooms and an amazing upstairs. The drugstore closed suddenly and the whole thing...including contents...was given to the museum. It is preserved much as it was. Bonus: The most interesting thing is a preserved (through taxidermy) double calf head, yes real, from a two-headed calf born nearby.


I like the three grades of sponges available in the lower cabinet right in the middle of the picture:

Velvet sponges
Bath sponges
Automobile sponges

Re: Vertigo

I did that trick and felt the sensation you described. I didn't get vertigo bad enough to keep me from finding a dime or quarter on the tile floor left of center about seven tiles up from the bottom. Love all drug store pictures, especially earlier than the 50's.

You get all wrapped up in the cigars

and completely neglect the righthand side, where Peter's, Red Rapt and Romance brands of chocolate, among others, are being offered along with Beech-Nut peppermints.

And back on the left: can one imagine anyone going to the trouble now of re-sharpening safety razor blades? Can one even imagine it then?

Those were the days

My late uncle would have known what toilet cream was. He once told me he used toilet water but he stopped after the seat came down and hit him on the back of the head.


If you have never experienced vertigo, now is your chance. Focus on the bottom of that floor. Now use your browser button to push that image quickly up to the ceiling. Whew! Now down. Now UP. Whew. Now down. Now UP. Whew. Now down. Now UP. Whew.

Did Last In Last Out (LILO) rule in this store, or who got stuck with the old stock. I'm thinking a parent sent in a kid to get a can of Prince Albert and the clerk went up the ladder and pulled out the FILO can for him. I'm thinking this because when I was 8 my aunt sent me to the grocery for a loaf a bread. The clerk gave me a day-old with a torn wrapper. My aunt and I were back in the store before the clerk could say "got rid o' that one, boss".

I want to be the bookkeeper for this place. I direct and you stock.

Great photo, Shorpy. Thanks.

Perhaps Boston

A case could be made that the store may have been here. No G.W. Armstrong appears in various directories of druggists around the time of the shot, but the G.W. Armstrong Dining Room and News Company was a strong presence in the New England railroad scene. The company ran the restaurant and the newsstand at the Boston station at the time, and a druggist trade journal describes how the company opened, and later expanded, a drug store in the same complex.

From a 1908 ABC Pathfinder Railway Guide:

A note from the "Boston Briefs" section of the trade publication Journal of the N.A.R.D (National Association of Retail Druggists):

Western Union Clock

The clock over the doorway is a Western Union Self Winding pendulum clock. It used one of the old telephone batteries to re-wind itself after it had run down a certain amount. Western Union sent out a time pulse from the central office every hour which had been synchronized with U.S. Naval Observatory time at noontime every day. If the clock in a customers office was more than ten seconds off it would not reset automatically on the hour and a tech would have to go fix it. Every main W.U. office in metropolitan areas had a Master clock which was synched with Naval time. These master clocks set sub-master clocks in smaller towns and the sub-masters sent the time pulse to the customers premises.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar

Ruby Star Cigars
Look Like 15 cents - Smoke Like 10 cents
Our Price 7 cents - 4 for 25 cents

The last bit comes out to 6.25 cents each, but it still looks like 15 cents and smokes like 10 cents! And that was a lot of money, back then. It was expensive to be a cigar smoking waif, back in the day.

Pardon me

But do you have Peter the Great in a Box? well you better let him out!

I took one apart

As a young kid, my neighbor was a pharmacist. He bought out an old time drugstore in South Baltimore after the elderly gent passed away. His old store looked much like this one, although it hadn't been open in a year or more.

My neighbor gave several of us young fellows a little spending money one summer to help him take this old store apart. My druggist neighbor purchased any drug stocks and equipment, including soda fountain items.

We spent the better part of the day hauling things out to the truck. Some of the more valuable items had already been taken.

That old store on Cross Street must have looked like this in its heyday.

Gibsons Toilet Cream

For dry, chapped Porcelain.

Mahogany & Marble

I'm always impressed by the incredible craftsmanship and the intent of permanence in the construction of these old stores. That paneling is fit for Rockefeller's study and the mosaic floor is a work of art. If a modern drug store was built with the same level of skill and materials today, we couldn't afford to shop there due to the overhead!

Noble Tobacco

Prince Albert had his can; Peter the Great his box.

Two things I would hate to do:

Take inventory of the place or be the sap who had to build those coffee displays on top.

I can see the poor guy with a handlebar mustache, garters on his sleeves, a green visor, and button down shoes trying to accomplish those tasks.

Vinol, a Nutritive Tonic.

Now we know what it is.

I'll bet it smelled unique in there

This reminds me of a drug store I used to go in as a kid. They also sold photography equipment and some cosmetics. Really had a neat aroma about it. Hard to explain, but if there's any other old farts out there, they will remember what an old time drug store smelled like.

Salida, Colorado?

I was curious to find out where this was located. On another site, I found this picture was labeled as a gift from the Colorado Historical Society. There was a G. W. Armstrong who owned a large drugstore in Salida, CO - though it looks like he sold it in 1910.

[Every one of the 25,000+ Detroit Publishing glass negatives in the Library of Congress archive is a gift from the Colorado Historical Society. This drugstore was most likely in Detroit or New York (or maybe Boston). - Dave]

Toilet cream

Gibson's Toilet Cream sounds interesting. What the heck is that for?

[For the complexion, a la toilet soap. - Dave]

What a treasure!

My head almost exploded when I saw this! Fantastic snapshot full of history -- and 75 cent toilet cream!


In Europe, once you get out of the big cities, you can still find drugstores that don't look unlike this one (you have to ask for things behind the counter and/or try to figure out what the HECK THAT IS behind the counter!) In the USA however, this kind of lovely, quaint drugstore is pretty much gone, sad but true.


Scrolling around on my little laptop screen, I came to the stacks of wrapped packages, first, and wondered what was in them. When I scrolled a bit farther, I saw the answer. What I wouldn't give for a chance to taste those chocolates!

I wonder if the cup holders on the left were for sale, or were for holding coffee and tea in some kind of disposable cup. I love pictures like this!

[The holders are for soda fountain customers. - Dave]

Commode to Joy

Wow, so much to look at in this shot. This is going to waste several hours of my time this afternoon.

I see at the upper left that Gibson's Toilet Cream is only a quarter (although it may be an exorbitant 75 cents).

Toilet Cream

What is toilet cream? Preparation H?

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