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Cook-Hayman Pharmacy Museum

Updated on November 14, 2017

In 1952, when building plans were drawn for the West Virginia University Medical Center, Dr. Roy Bird Cook, Secretary of the West Virginia State Board of Pharmacy and J. Lester Hayman, Dean of the School of Pharmacy had hopes of including a suitable room for a Museum Drug Store of the period early in the history of West Virginia as a state (1863 and shortly thereafter). Such a museum would preserve some of the fast disappearing implements of the early West Virginia drug stores and it would be intended to bring out the tremendous differences and the amazing progress which as been made in the fields of Pharmacy and Medicine during the last hundred years. The final plans of the more than thirty million dollar Medical Center did include a room for such a Museum but progress was very slow for many reasons, two of which are worthy of mention. First, it seemed impossible to procure fixtures from an old store that would be appropriate for the purpose, and second; all expenditures would have to be obtained from contributions, as University funds were not available. For several years items of interest and appropriateness were collected, when possible, and stored.

Professor Hayman Findings

In November, 1961, Professor Hayman located what seemed to be a "once in a lifetime" find, the fixtures that had been used in the Will Menkemeller Drug Store in Wheeling, West Virginia, and were over a hundred years old. Mr. Fred Newcomb of Cameron who was moving his store to a new location with completely new and modern fixtures donated these fixtures to the School of Pharmacy. This was the start of real progress toward the restoration of an old West Virginia Drug Store as a Museum. In April 1962, Professor Hayman, three students and the School of Pharmacy technician, hauled the solid chestnut furniture in the rain in a borrowed open truck. Delays impeded progress for several months and then on Thanksgiving day, 1961, many were shocked to learn of the sudden death of Dr. Roy Bird Cook. His death was unfortunate for the development of this project because his knowledge of pharmaceutical history concerning West Virginia far surpassed that of any other individual.

It was during the meeting of the West Virginia State Pharmaceutical Association in Morgantown in June 1962, that a proposal was made, with the approval of the faculty of the School of Pharmacy, to name the museum project the "Dr. Roy Bird Cook Memorial Pharmacy Museum". Upon the death of Dean Hayman the name of the museum was modified and became the Cook-Hayman Pharmacy Museum.

Among the early West Virginia drug stores, mention may be made of four of the older stores, each of which is represented with items on display.

In about 1824 Dr. Henry Rogers opened the first drug store in the Charleston area, which passed to his son J. H. Rogers in 1858 upon the death of Dr. Rogers. In 1909 this store was acquired by Mr. T. B. Stalnaker who continued the business for more than fifty years. It was Mr. J. H. Rogers who advertised in the Kanawha Valley Star on May 17, 1858, announcing the installation of a new soda fountain. Some of Mr. Rogers' soda tickets inscribed with his initials are on display with many other items from one of West Virginia's oldest drug stores.

The Minter Ralston Pharmacy of Weston has been in continuous operation since 1856, being operated in direct line by family pharmacists covering four generations.

The Civil War

At the beginning of the Civil War the Dorsey and Baker drug stores were in operation in Martinsburg but were purchased by Mr. M. A. Snodgrass in 1875 when Mr. Snodgrass started his long career as a pharmacist in Martinsburg. A prescription file (wire type) is on display with prescriptions dating back to February 1873.

Thomas B. Rogers began his apprenticeship in 1876 and located in Moundsville, as a pharmacist in 1882 where for many years he cared for the prescription needs of the families of this area. His grandson, Thomas B. Rogers, was the last owner of the M. A. Snodgrass store in Martinsburg.

During the summer of 1962 work was begun on the refinishing of the ornate, solid chestnut furniture from the Cameron Drug Store. The back bar in front of the prescription department includes two beautiful sections of leaded stained glass, two display sections backed by mirrors and a large central mirror, which is the original with hardly a noticeable blemish.

The prescription department of the post Civil War drug store was in the rear, where the pharmacist frequently prepared his many medicines. This area was not intended to be a place for visitors to watch or interrupt the pharmacist during the compounding of the physician's prescription, but was instead a sanctum sanctorum where he could give his undivided attention to this professional work to assure accuracy and where he could at the same time keep an eye on the front of the store peering through the ever present "peep hole".

In the prescription department we may see many items used in the early days of West Virginia. On the wall are the framed Certificate of Registration of Mr. Alfred Walker (1863 - 1932) of Sutton, the first President of the West Virginia State Pharmaceutical Association and for 31 years the Secretary of the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy and of Mrs. Willa M. Strickler of Farmington, the first woman pharmacist to practice in West Virginia, having received her Certificate on January 31, 1894. The middle shelves of the wall section bear a rare matched set of hand painted apothecary jars, which once were used, the the early Charleston, South Carolina drug store. Other shelves in this wall section hold the apothecary shelf bottles from the Cameron Drug Store and the McCoy Drug Store of the early days of Fairview. On one end there is a rather large glass percolated packed with a drug and macerating (soaking) with a solvent of alcohol and water to extract the active drug principles. The old mill, on the opposite side, was used for grinding the barks, the roots, the woods, the fruits or other drugs for use in the percolation of fluid extracts, syrups, and tinctures to be found in many of the apothecary bottles. The prescription room library consists of the United States Pharmacopoeias of 1860 and 1870, the United States of American Dispensatories of 1865, 1866, 1870 and 1883, and other reference books of this period.

The drawers in the wall section of this sanctum sanctorum, each with its label, provide space for the corks, the bottles, both glass and wooden, the herbs, the wooden pill boxes, the reserve stock of labels, and bulk drugs and chemicals which varied from store to store in accordance with the needs of the pharmacist. On the ledge immediately above the drawers we find several items of interest. There is a white pill tile from the Alfred Walker Drug Store in Sutton. This slab was used for thoroughly mixing ointments, for massing drug materials to be rolled into a small drug cylinder and for evenly cutting the cylinder into small pieces to be hand rolled into pills. There is a troche or lozenge cutter resembling a small cookie cutter and in fact is used in the same manner. One may see a small wooden sphere on a pedestal and known as a pill coater. Gold and silver leaf was placed in the sphere and the pills were rotated therein until evenly coated. Coatings such as there prevented the medicinals from becoming oxidized in the air. The small aluminum cylinder comes apart and has a sieve inside for hand separating the finer from the coarser particles of a powdered drug.

On the compounding counter is an apparatus made of wood with corrugated brass facing, which was used, for rolling and cutting pills. The cabinets above the work counter contain a rather complete supply of Lloyd's Specific medicines, which were popular many years ago but can hardly be found today. Below on the small shelves are a representative supply of the old fluid extracts from the early days of pharmaceutical manufacturing, and represents some of our earliest drug manufacturing firms, namely, Eli Lilly & Co., H. K. Mulford, Park Davis and Co., and Sharp & Dohme. In this area we find the wire type prescription file with prescriptions dating back to February 1873, from the Snodgrass Drug Store.

Lighting in the early days was usually by candles and/or oil lamps. Two antique coal oil lamps remind us of this period.

The front of the Cook-Hayman Pharmacy Museum has on the west wall a large section exhibiting the ever-present apothecary shelf bottles of the early drug store in West Virginia. These bottles contain the chemicals and pharmaceuticals as recorded on the labels, many of them having been recently percolated in accordance with the formulas of the old United States Pharmacopoeias and National Formularies. The approximately two hundred shelf bottles in this section have been collected from about twelve West Virginia drug stores. The labels on these pharmaceutical bottles are made of thin glass bent to the shape of the bottle. The names are painted on the backs, which are decorated with gold and other colors. The labels are affixed to the bottles with wax or other suitable materials. Some of the older bottles are hand blown and show the "break-off" scars on the bottom.

In the display cases on either side of the large mirror one may see many items of interest. There is a wooden quassia cup (shaped like a wine glass), which was to be found in many of our forefather's homes. Quassia wood, which grows in the West Indies and in northern South America, contains a very bitter principle, which is soluble in water. Quassia cups are made out of the wood, hot water was poured into them, allowed to stand, and then drunk. Sufficient bitter principle was extracted to supply a "tonic" dose. There is the iron instrument know as a cork press, which was used to mold and press corks in order to fit the medicine bottles, which in the past were not standardized. This particular cork press is of interest because it was once used in Ripley, West Virginia, by Al Jennings (often call "Fonny") who gained notoriety as a train bandit and highwayman in the "wild and woolly west", later being a candidate for Governor of Oklahoma, a lecturer and evangelist.

In one of the curved glass display sections are two books of prescriptions, one dated in 1857 and one in 1897. In the earlier book there is not a single prescription with any kind of printing thereon. In the 1897 book most every prescription is printed with the name of the physician or the name of the drug store. Does this indicate that printing on the prescription blank was begun in the forty-year period between 1857 and 1897?

On each end of the wall section is a leaded, colored glass, pear shaped light fixture, which came from the G. O. Young store in Buckhannon and resembles those used in the restored Upjohn Drug Store in Disneyland.

On the west side of the store there are two small shelf sections exhibiting some of the old so-called "patent medicines", a collection that needs to be considerable enlarged to be typical of the old drug stores. At present one section shows a number of the old, hand made shelf bottles from the early Rogers' store of Charleston. In several locations there are to be found the old hand scales. The apothecary or physician had to hold the scale up with his left hand while weighing the materials for his prescription or his patient.

On the top of one of the show cases may be found an old Henry Troemner brass balance made in Philadelphia in about 1750 which is said to have crossed the Allegheny Mountains in a wagon over dirt roads to Fort Necessity and was later shipped by boat down the Ohio River to New Martinsville. The last owner of the balance, Mr. J. C. Muse, a New Martinsville pharmacist, donated it to the Museum. In the case there is a display of mortars and pestles, beginning with a bell mortar dated in 1648, a heavy marble mortar with four projections used as "handles" and of the same era as the brass balance formerly owned by the late Joseph E. Harned, famous pharmacist and naturalist of Oakland, Maryland, and author of "Wild Flowers of the Alleghenies". There are, of course, examples of the brass, the wooden, the iron and the more recent glass and wedgwood mortars and pestles. One might be interested in one of the earliest of the steam atomizers.

In the modern room of the Medical Center, which houses the Pharmacy Museum, there are four windows on the west side. True to custom these windows exhibit the Showglobes, the symbol of the apothecary or pharmacist. The actual origin of these globes is obscure. The original colors, blue and red, were supposed to represent venous and arterial blood. One version is that the druggist used to extract his medicines in large glass containers in the windows of his shop so that the glass vessels containing colored liquids came to be associated with the art of pharmacy. Still another says that "these beautiful bottles, of various sizes and shapes, were filled with colored liquids and at night, before the gas light and the electric sign, the pharmacist would place a lamp or a candle behind the showglobe to mark his shop." It is thought "that the showglobe originated in the Near East and was introduced into England during the Great Plague of London (1665-66)". Whatever the origin of the Showglobe it has become the trademark of the pharmacist as much as the sign of the mortar and pestle and the well-known Rx symbol.

On the wall opposite the other certificates is the Certificate of Registration as a pharmacist of Dr. Roy Bird Cook dated June 1, 1905. Dr. Cook had applied to take the examinations at the age of 19 having had at that time seven years of experience in a drug store in Weston, West Virginia. Dr. Cook was the youngest person ever to have become registered as a pharmacist in West Virginia.

The old wooden Sessions clock hanging on the wall still ticks away as it did in the Parsons, West Virginia drug store when Mr. Rodney Barb had the early duty of winding it before the daily business began.

One of the early physicians of Morgantown was Dr. Charles McLane who came from Pennsylvania in 1823. Early in his practice he began to prepare and distribute Dr. C. McLane's Liver Pills and it is said that eventually they were sold in every civilized country in the world. The large iron mortar is the one used by Dr. McLane in making the pill mass for his Liver Pills. Mr. Frank M. Dent of McVicker's Drug Store, Morgantown, presented it to the Museum.

The Museum exhibits several round or square glass, wide mouth jars containing some of the familiar drugs displayed for sale in our early drug stores, such as sassafras bark, licorice sticks, cinnamon, etc.

Attracting considerable interest is the apparatus for gelatin coating hand-made pills, and who remembers the Orris "fingers" bored with a hold and hung on a string to put around baby's neck for the purpose of cutting teeth before the days of the rubber plastic teething ring?

Don't miss seeing the "seroon". Many years ago a large number of the vegetable drugs came from South America and from Africa. Shipping methods in those days were quite crude and the natives would fashion a crude crate from vines, pack the drugs inside the crate and then kill a monkey or goat and cover the crate with the green skin, which when dried formed a tight, compact container. Such a carton was known as a "seroon". As may be seen on the exhibited seroon, it originally came from Chile.

Another interesting packing carton is the gourd. The drug aloe was known to the Greeks as early as 400 B.C. and has purgative properties. There are a number of varieties grown in various parts of the world but the manner of shipping, in the middle 1800's of the Curacao or West Indian aloe is interesting. The juice of the succulent leaves was allowed to run spontaneously from the severed leaf, the thin juice was then evaporated in a copper dish until thick then it was poured into a large gourd to harden for shipment.

Although the Cook-Hayman Memorial Pharmacy Museum was begun in 1962, there are many items of historical interest donated yearly, which are displayed and add to the history of pharmacy in West Virginia. It is hoped that the future will continue to reflect the past and the Museum will flourish as a reminder of a drug store in the early days of West Virginia.


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