Saturday, December 3, 2011

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum

Located on South Fairfax St. in Alexandria, Virginia sits a small but interesting museum that dates from the late 1790's. The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum sits as a  reminder of early medicinal and retail history.

Founded in 1792 and moved to it's current location in 1796 the family run pharmacy operated until the great depression and increased competition caused it's closure in 1933. Edward Stabler founded the pharmacy and operated it until 1819 when his son William took over management. William inherited the business when Edward died in 1831. William's brother in law John Leadbeater took over ownership in 1852.

Store records with purchases
made by Robert E. Lee
During the long and successful run of the business it served both the average citizen and the famous. Sales records detail purchases made by the likes of Martha Washington, James Monroe, Eleanor Parke Custis, and Robert E. Lee.

In addition to medicines, over the years the pharmacy sold varied products including farm equipment, surgical supplies, dental instruments, soaps and perfumes, cigars, mineral water, paints, and more. During the Civil War products such as "hot drops" were popular and sales records show that Union troops were large purchasers of this cough suppressant.

As the Great Depression destroyed business after business the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop was no exception. The shop closed for good in 1933. After closing, the shop was left in the same condition as when it operated. The Landmark Society of Alexandria then purchased the property eventually opening it as a museum in 1939. In 2004 the museum was closed for renovations. After extensive renovations it was donated to the city of Alexandria and was reopened in 2006. When reopened the museum allowed visitors to visit the second floor "manufacturing room". This room sits as it did when the original shop closed in the 1930's. Also available to visitors is the basement where the cistern is located.

I highly recommend this nice little museum to any visitor of Alexandria. It is a must see for anybody interested in retail history, pharmaceuticals, or bottle collectors. The admission charge of $5 (be sure to ask about a AAA discount) is well worth the cost.

Be sure to visit the museum's Facebook page.

Various medicines and also beautiful
glass signage below.
Row after row of medicine bottles.

Congress Water!

Various patent medicines.
George Washington bust
seen as you walk in the
front door.
Benjamin Franklin as seen
to the right of  George
An assortment of products bearing
the Leadbeater logo.

The basement cistern

Interpretive plaque discussing the

Tanglefoot remedy for fleas.
E.S. Leadbeater and Sons Wholesale
Druggists glass bottle.

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