2nd Stop: Artifacts


The second stop on the Pharmacy Museum tour features an assortment of artifacts. Prominently featured is a bust of Dr. Rufus Lyman, the founding dean of the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy. Dr. Lyman was a physician and educator. He also founded the College of Pharmacy at the University of Nebraska.

Jesse and Mary Hurlbut gave much of the History of Pharmacy collection to the College of Pharmacy. Jesse Hurlbut came to Arizona in the 1930s after severe earthquakes destroyed his pharmacies in Santa Barbara, California. Lucien Brunswick, owner of Brunswick Wholesale Drug Company in Tucson, offered him the vacant Owl Drug Store in downtown Tucson, at 6th Avenue and Congress. Hurlbut moved into the site and began filling prescriptions and serving breakfast and lunch to his customers.

Hurlbut noticed that some of his customers were a bit different from the rest: the strangers who dined daily at his lunch counter dressed like “Easterners,” as Jesse described them. One particular stranger had a habit of chewing a stick or two of Black Jack gum as he waited for his meal. When lunch arrived, the stranger always stuck the gum underneath the counter.

On the morning of January 25, 1934, Hurlbut opened his newspaper and read that John Dillinger, a notorious gangster, had been captured in Tucson, along with three other members of the Dillinger Gang. To his surprise, it was John Dillinger who had been the strange patron at the Owl Drug Store’s lunch counter.

In a small jar, Hurlbut collected Dillinger’s chewing gum from under the Owl Drug Store counter. The jar is now kept in the museum as an unusual reminder of a gangster’s visit to Tucson. Also displayed are menus listing the assortment of food that one could get for a very reasonable price in the 1930s.

Also on display are a number of over-the-counter items and unique pharmacy memorabilia, the rarest of which is the Materia Medica collection. This large wooden box is filled with drawers of natural products that were used in making prescriptions. Produced by Parke, Davis & Co. in about 1895, the museum’s example is one of only a few complete sets remaining in the world. In the past, pharmacy students were required to identify each of these products, their uses and their origin.

As is true today, pharmacies in the past were a source of much more than just healthcare products: pens, dyes, shaving gear, hair preparations and many over-the-counter remedies for minor ailments also were available.

In the background of these cases are photos of early drug stores in Arizona, dating back to the days before its statehood in 1912. The varied styles of bottles and containers required unique talent to create – from colorful tins and brightly colored lithograph labels to unusual bottle shapes like the cod liver oil bottle in the shape of a fish. A number of elaborate show globes are on display, some of which have ground glass stoppers between multiple tiers. The three large hand-blown show globes date to the 1880s.

This stop also presents an interesting visual record of Jesse Hurlbut’s relationship with the museum. A pictorial history of Hurlbut is exhibited, from his days as a young man working the counter of his pharmacy to later in life as a state pharmacy board inspector.


Originally posted: August 21, 2013
Last updated: December 15, 2014
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