Oscar H. Stillwagon, Pharmacist

Today in Ambler we have CVS Pharmacy and Rite-Aid. Did you know that there were drug stores before CVS and Rite-Aid came into the area? It turns out that there were at least 3 pharmacists who worked for the Ambler community in the early 20th century. One of the pharmacists was Oscar H. Stillwagon (1875-1952).

Oscar H. Stillwagon (1875-1952)

Oscar was the son of Abraham and Mary Stillwagon, and was born and raised in the Ambler borough. His father owned a bakery and ice cream business in Ambler for 20 years. He also owned a restaurant in Ambler for 20 years. He was the first person in Ambler to make Vienna bread.

North Pennsylvania Railroad 1886 Philadelphia - Bucks - Montgomery Counties, Ambler; J. D. Scott, Publisher

Oscar was educated at Misses Knight's Sunnyside Academy. He then attend the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy where he received his degree in 1904 after passing the State examination. Oscar worked for pharmacist Joseph S. Angeny and R. C. Roberts at Ambler until 1907 when he decided to start his own business in Ambler.

He built up a prosperous, modern and fully-equipped pharmacy in Ambler.

His business lasted for at least 20 years when he was appointed Postmaster in Ambler by President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1934-1942. His father was also appointed Postmaster in Ambler under President Grover Cleveland from 1884-1888. During his first term as Postmaster, Oscar proposed Federal funds to Congress for a new post office building in Ambler on Butler Pike and York Street. The current post office is now at 200 W Butler Ave in Ambler.

FUN FACT: Two of the most well-known Postmasters in history were Benjamin Franklin (who established the US Post Office) as well as past US Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman!

In 1944, Oscar was appointed President of the Ambler Kiwanis Club.

Clipping from Ambler Gazette: January 6, 1944 (Page 1)
Clipping from Ambler Gazette: July 21,1938 (Page 1)
Montgomery County 1949 Vol D, Plate 014 - Ambler Borough; Franklin Survey Company, Publisher

A Brief History of Drugstores in America:

The first drugstore that existed in the United States possibly took place in 1823 in New Orleans, simply because "the first registered pharmacist in America started it." Others say that the drugstore started at Fredericksburg, Virginia during the Revolutionary War, where Martha Washington, wife of 1st president George Washington, was a patient there. But it didn't have a registered pharmacist as its originator.

The Golden Age of Drugstores rose up in the 1860s. "It was during this time that the scientific method came into vogue and many new drugs were discovered." Before discoveries, there were antidotes that were not supported or proven. Pharmacies went from alchemies and conjectures, to modern day pharmacies we know and love.

Fun Fact: Philadelphia was the city of firsts. The Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, now University of the Sciences, was the first pharmacy college in the nation. It was founded in 1821. Oscar H. Stillwagon was a graduate in 1904.

If you notice below in Oscar H. Stillwagon's ads, he sold a variety of things in his drugstore. Not only did he sell drugs, he also sold candies and other goodies. It sounds just like how CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreen's are operated today.

Ad from Ambler Gazette: October 3, 1929 (Page 5)
Ad from Ambler Gazette: February 25, 1909 (Page 5)
Ad from Ambler Gazette: April 24, 1913 (Page 5)
Ad from Ambler Gazette: July 24, 1919 (Page 5)

Ad from Ambler Gazette: May 21, 1919 (Page 5); Stay clean, folks!


Franklin Survey Company. Montgomery County 1949 Vol D, Plate 014, 1949.

Hunsicker, Clifton S. Montgomery County, Pennsylvania ; A History, Volume III. (New York; Chicago: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1923): 436-437.

Scott, J.D. North Pennsylvania Railroad 1886 Philadelphia - Bucks - Montgomery Counties, Ambler, 1886.

The Era Druggists Directory of the United States, Canada, Cuba, Porto Rico, Manila and Hawaiian Islands: 19th Edition-1921. (New York: D.O. Haynes & Co., 1921): 257.

"The Historic Drugstore." Soderlund Drugstore Museum. Accessed August 28, 2020. https://www.drugstoremuseum.com/drugstore/.

"Wissahickon Valley Public Library's Ambler Gazette Collection." POWER Library: Pennsylvania's Electronic Library. Accessed August 13, 2020. http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/wivp-gazett.

#pahistory #ambler #amblergazette #butlerpike #missesknight #sunnysideacademy #sunnysideschool #philadelphiacollegeofpharmacy #usciences #pharmacy #drugstore #chocolate #postmaster #postoffice #business #archives #googlebooks #josephsangeny #cvspharmacy #riteaid #pharmacist #druggist #coronavirus #COVID19 #spanishflu #influenza #WWI

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