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Photo of the Month
December 2009
See Previous Photos     Unknown Faces and Places

 

Isaac W. Blood -- husband of Nettie Thorne -- played an unusual but direct role in the founding of the nation's giant Walgreens drug store chain, and together Nettie and Isaac were listed in The Chicago Blue Book of prominent householders in the Windy City.

In the late 1890s and early 1900s, Isaac owned two drug stores in Chicago, one in the Barrett Hotel at the corner of Cottage Grove and Bowen Avenue, and the other at 4501 Lake Park Avenue, seen here. Over the years, he built a substantial reputation and served as president of the Chicago Retail Druggists' Association and as vice president of the Illinois Pharmaceutical Association. In late 1898, Isaac hired a 25-year-old registered pharmacist and Spanish-American War veteran who was put to work in the Cottage Grove location and dreamed of someday owning the store himself. 

In June 1901, the employee approached Blood with an offer, and they agreed on a purchase price, which took seven years to pay. Driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and desire to truly serve customers, the new owner -- Charles R. Walgreen --  went on to revolutionize the pharmacy business. Walgreen expanded to 19 stores by 1916, and consolidated them under his brand name. Within a quarter century, Walgreen had opened 100 stores. Today, Walgreen Co. and its subsidiaries comprise the nation's largest drugstore chain with sales of close to $60 billion and 237,000 employees, ranking among the Fortune 500. It's acknowledged as one of Fortune Magazine's "most admired companies."

Isaac's name and store today are part of the cultural lore of Walgreen's humble beginnings. He is mentioned in several histories, including the 1963 Never A Dull Day, authored by Myrtle R. ( Norton) Walgreen; Pharmacist to the Nation by Herman and Rick Kogan; John U. Bacom's America's Corner Store; and on the company's website and in alumni association publications. An exact replica of the first store is displayed in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry in an exhibit celebrating "Yesterday's Main Street." 

Minerd.com extends is deep appreciation to the Walgreen Drug Stores Historical Foundation for providing this rare image and other historical publications mentioning Isaac that have been added permanently to our Minerd.com Archives.

 

Copyright 2009 Mark A. Miner