Frontier America

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“Carriage and Covered Wagon Caravan,” 1880s. Courtesy of the Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library via Mountain West Digital Library.

The nineteenth century witnessed a huge migration of settlers into the American frontier. With the promise of a freedom, cheap land and a new life, people headed west. The settlement of the American West gave rise to countless small towns during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Many of these settlements lacked access to doctors and hospitals; but eventually many of these towns featured a drugstore. The addition of the drugstore helped the spread of patent medicine across the United States.

The corner drugstore was not just a pharmacy. Drugstores on the frontier frequently sold a wide array of products and were the convenience stores of their time. In addition to pharmaceuticals and patent medicines, drugstores also sold household goods, furnishings, cleaning supplies, greeting cards, and beauty and hygiene products. As the years passed, drugstores began selling food items like crackers, cookies, and candy. The invention of the soda fountain helped to secure the drugstore's place in a community as both a retail store and a social destination.