Wholesale Druggists

The Drug Trade

Raw drugs and chemicals were supplied to retail drugstores by the wholesale drug trade. These suppliers, not only provided the raw materials from which prescriptions and medicines were compounded locally but also sold their own brands along with other proprietary articles.

In turn, the druggists were supplied prescription and other pharmacy bottles by a large number of glass factories. One of the more famous was the Whitall Tatum Company, the bases of their bottles being marked, "W.T. & Co." Whitall Tatum offered an entire line of druggist glassware as well as catering to the chemical industry. Some of the largest wholesale druggists and chemical manufacturers operated their own glass factories due to their enormous need.

The medicine business had a tiered structure. At the bottom, was the local retail druggist had the closest connection with the public. The day to day operation of a drug store was time consuming and required full attention, if one was to be successful. Every town in America had one or more of these establishments. Some druggists operated both retail and wholesale businesses. These proprietors typically had a successful product, which enabled them to enter the wholesale market or, they became agents for successful products which they in turn sold wholesale to other retailers. The well-known patent medicine companies such as Dr. Jayne Family Medicines, Dr. Kilmer with his Swamproot or, Chemist, James Ayers, with his Cherry Pectoral, all began as retailers and built their business into a wholesale operation. Then there were the wholesale druggists. Setting up such a business required a substantial investment and often involved multiple partners, each bringing their own resources to the enterprise. The wholesalers supplied the trade. They also could make or break a brand and bore the advertising costs, supported traveling salesmen, operated manufactories where products were made, packaged and distributed to a geographically dispersed base. The growth of the wholesale drug business played out over several decades with major companies being firmly established by the late 1840s. Fueled by improved means of transportation – canals, fledging railroads and improved roads - the dominant players eventually divided into three main camps: those that were engaged in the questionable patent medicine trade; those that were legitimate chemical or pharmaceutical companies; and those that were some combination of both. It was from these groups that many of today’s major players in the pharmaceutical industry emerged. Companies with names like Miles Laboratories, Park Davis and Merck, were part of this evolution.

By the 1880s, these organizations covered the country and competition was keen. Many of the smaller whole druggists served a more local market and served the same customer base as did the larger companies. the smaller concerns rarely were suppliers of processed pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Most of their money was made from resale. Slowly, the market came to be dominated by the few large names many of whom had their roots in the patent medicine business. This early success with a name brand provided many of the companies the funds they need to grow.

Below are links to these Wholesale Druggist Companies listed by State for the year 1883.  No companies existed in the unlinked states or territories.
Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado
Connecticut Delaware Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho
Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana
Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi
Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey
New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma
Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee
Texas Utah Vermont Virginia Washington DC West Virginia
Wisconsin Wyoming Canada      

Below are links to these Wholesale Druggist Companies listed alphabetically. If the you know the name of the Company Click on the letter below to find if it is listed.

A  B   D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  V  W  X  Y  Z