Stowell's Pharmacy in Pelham Manor and its Stunning Early Real Photo Postcards
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Opening of Stowell's Pharmacy in 1907
One of the earliest pharmacies to open in the tiny Village of Pelham Manor was "Stowell's Pharmacy" operated by J. S. Stowell. It was not Pelham's first pharmacy. That distinction belongs to a tiny pharmacy opened by a member of the Roosevelt family in the 1890s. That pharmacy quickly failed. Its fixtures were sold to Seth T. Lyman of the Village of North Pelham who opened his pharmacy at Fifth Avenue and First Street with those fixtures.
Before opening his Pelham Manor pharmacy, J. S. Stowell was with the Chambers Pharmacy operated by James Chambers in Bronxville. In 1907 Stowell decided to strike out on his own and open a pharmacy in the region. He settled on the Village of Pelham Manor which had about 450 residents but no pharmacy.
First Stowell had to locate the building to house his new business. He was in luck. A building at a prime location had just become available -- the old Pelham Manor Post Office.
The story of that old Pelham Manor Post Office building is interesting in and of itself. In 1897, the Village Clerk of the Village of Pelham Manor, Gervas H. Kerr, became Pelham Manor postmaster. He oversaw the post office in the Pelham Manor Depot until 1904, when it was moved out of the Depot to a nearby residence on Terrace avenue, a roadway that no longer exists due to the construction of Interstate 95 during the 1950s. The post office remained in that residence (a home later owned by F.C. Allen, Jr. of Pelham Manor) for only three years. In 1907, Postmaster Kerr oversaw construction of a new post-office building nearby, near the front entrance to the nearly-new Pelham Manor Train Station built of stone, designed by noted architect Cass Gilbert and opened in about 1907. Stowell seized on the opportunity and took over the vacant Terrace Avenue residence formerly used as the Post Office.
Stowell successfully opened his new business. A brief newspaper reference published before he opened Stowell's Pharmacy indicated plans for a "first class" and "attractive pharmacy" with an "up to date prescription department" as well as a classic soda fountain. According to the same reference, the soda fountain would serve not only "ice cream sodas and sundaes," but also "a long list of popular drinks such as egg phosphate, malted milk and egg, vishy and milk, lemonade to order, etc."
It is not known with certainty how long Stowell's Pharmacy operated in Pelham Manor. It certainly operated for at least three years. References to the pharmacy in 1910 can be found in a variety of sources. In the short time that the pharmacy existed, it seems, it left one fascinating, historic, and beautiful legacy.
The Stowell's Pharmacy Real Photo Postcards
At about the time J. S. Stowell was opening his pharmacy, the golden age of American Postcards was underway. More significantly, a recent development in the creation of such postcards was generating excitement throughout the country. Stowell's Pharmacy, it seems, took advantage of this excitement.
In 1903, Kodak introduced a camera (the 3A Folding Pocket Kodak Camera) designed to use film that produced postcard-size images to allow consumers to take photographs and have them printed on postcard paper with postcard backs. The camera was such a success that Kodak introduced a new service in 1907 that it named "Real Photo Postcards." The service enabled customers to make postcards from any photograph they took regardless of the camera used.
At about the same time, Federal law changed to permit -- for the first time -- the inclusion of a message on a portion of the back of a postcard. Until that change in the law, only the address was allowed on the back of a postcard. Any message had to be included on the front of the postcard where, typically, an image of some sort appeared.
These two developments combined to create a boon in the creation and use of Real Photo Postcards (often known to collectors as RPPs or RPPCs). According to one source: "No other single format has provided such a massive photo history of America, particularly of small-town and rural America where photography was often a luxury." "Real Photo Postcard" in Wikipedia -- The Free Encyclopedia (visited Dec. 3, 2016).
A fascinating series of Real Photo Postcards created in about 1909 seems to be connected to Stowell's Pharmacy. Although only one in the series uncovered so far has a Stowell's Pharmacy designation on it, the images are remarkably similar and contain handwritten titles that appear to be in the same handwriting in each instance -- handwriting that matches that on the only example in the series uncovered so far that includes a Stowell's Pharmacy reference.
The Stowell Pharmacy postcards represent an important and fascinating group of RPP images taken at about the same time. The images reveal, if nothing else, long-gone views of Pelham that were deemed significant enough to capture as part of an entrepreneurial scheme to profit from those views through postcard sales. It now seems certain that among the many things one could purchase in Stowell's Pharmacy were these lovely postcards to collect or to mail to family and friends.
Below are the Real Photo Postcard images I have been able to identify so far that likely are part of the Stowell's Pharmacy series of such cards. Since not all are labeled as "Stowell's Pharmacy" cards, there is no definitive way to determine if they all are part of the same series. However, you may judge for yourself based on the "look" of each postcard and the handwritten titles in identical handwriting whether they seem to be part of a series of cards prepared by (or for sale at) the pharmacy. Most importantly, since some of the cards have legible postmarks that seem to compare favorably with the time we know Stowell's Pharmacy existed, it is now even easier to assign a narrow date range for all the images including those without postmarks (or without legible postmarks).
These thirteen postcards seem to be part of a series of related postcards with a possible connection to Stowell's Pharmacy in Pelham Manor. It seems almost positive that there are other examples out there of similar postcards in the same series that have the same handwriting and the same "look and feel" as these thirteen examples. Although it is impossible to know with certainty, it seems most likely that the photographs used in these postcards were taken in 1909 given the historical context of all these images and given that the earliest postmark on any of them (at least as known for now) is September 4, 1909.
Most likely the photographs were taken on different dates. However, the shadows and greenery suggest that the images were taken on a spring day (or on spring days) with the sun nearly directly overhead in most images.
It is easy to imagine, at times, how the photographer may have walked along a particular route to snap some of the photographs. For example, it may have been the case that on one occasion the photographer took a photograph of the Pelham Manor Depot, then wandered in the tunnel beneath the tracks and emerged to photograph the Pelham Manor Post Office adjacent to the Depot. The photographer, we imagine, then walked a few thousand feet up Pelhamdale Avenue to Four Corners.
At Four Corners, the photographer took a photograph of the Little Red Church and turned west on Boston Post Road, stepping briefly onto the Esplanade to take a picture of that roadway (showing the rear of the horse watering fountain). Next the photographer remained on the Esplanade, but crossed Boston Post Road to photograph Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls on Boston Post Road at the Esplanade on the side of Boston Post Road opposite the horse drinking fountain.
The photographer next took the few steps back onto Boston Post Road and walked a few hundred feet west. Standing in the middle of Boston Post Road, the photographer turned around toward the Esplanade and took a photograph of Boston Post Road (with a dog seated in the roadway and the horse watering trough in the distance). The photographer next turned onto Wolfs Lane and walked a few hundred feet to the intersection of Wolfs Lane and Secor and photographed the monumental mansion of Mont D. Rogers (one of a number of nearby monumental mansions).
Next, the photographer walked a few hundred to a few thousand feet further on Wolfs Lane and took a picture showing a few homes on Wolfs Lane. Then the photographer continued on Wolfs Lane to the Pelham Station on the New Haven Line and took a picture there. Thereafter the photographer would have taken a brief detour along the railroad right-of-way to take a photograph of the nearby Pelham Reservoir. (And so on, and so on.)
These photographs are rare images of a Pelham that no longer exists: Pelham in 1909. They are beautiful. There are so many clues in each that have yet to be explored.
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Below is the text of a number of items that shed some light on Stowell's Pharmacy. Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.
"-- J. S. Stowell, recently of the Chambers Pharmacy, is going into business for himself in Pelham Manor. That happens to be the one prosperous village in the heart of things that has no drug store. It likewise has a new post office building which leaves the old one vacant. Mr. Stowell has taken this building and will put it in first class shape for an attractive pharmacy, with an up to date prescription department and a soda fountain where a long list of popular drinks such as egg phosphate, malted milk and egg, vishy and milk, lemonade to order, etc. will be on tap for the automobilist in addition to the ice cream sodas and sundaes for home consumption. E. S. Sawyer of New York has taken Mr. Stowell's place at Chambers'."
Source: [Untitled], The Bronxville Review, Aug. 15, 1907, Vol. VI, No. 33, p. 5, col. 2.
"PELHAM MANOR, Westchester Co. . . . . [Population 638] Stowell's Pharmacy"
Source: The ERA Druggists Directory of America - 14th Edition - 1910, p. 134 (NY, NY: D.O. Haynes & Co., Publishers, 1910).
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Labels: 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, Boston Post Road, Esplanade, Horse Drinking Fountain, J. S. Stowell, Little Red Church, Munro Crane, Pelham Manor Depot, Pharmacy, Post Card, Stowell's Pharmacy, Terrace Avenue