Introduction

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"Sapanule - sold by all druggists" pointed consumers to drugstores, ca. 1885. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library via the Digital Commonwealth.

“Anyone with enough courage and capital could open up a drugstore.”

—Gregory J. Higby, American Institute of the History of Pharmacy

The drugstore as we currently know it evolved during the nineteenth century. Prior to the Civil War, American pharmacists worked in storefronts. These small establishments sold only drugs and medicines and pharmacists placed their drug compounding supplies near the front door.

By the late 1800s, a new type of retail space was developed to sell both prescription and patent medicines. Now, the drugstore also included additional consumer products beyond medications, including magazines, candy, stationery, and cosmetics. The growth of the American drugstore eventually prompted a rearrangement of the space to accommodate a growing consumer market. The pharmacist and medicines were moved to the back of the store and other more profitable products such as tobacco, candy, and the soda fountain now occupied the prime real estate in the front and center of the store.