The Leatherby Libraries and the Chapman University School of Pharmacy (CUSP) are excited to partner together to announce a new, year-long exhibit on display in the Health Sciences Study Commons on the Rinker Health Science Campus of Chapman University.
“A History of Pharmacy in Pictures” is a series of 40 illustrations thought of by George A. Bender, a pharmacist, during the Great Depression. He was inspired by a series of photographs sponsored by Davis & Geck that depicted episodes in the history of surgery. Bender had been dreaming of his picture-and-story project since 1941, but first proposed the concept in 1947, when he joined Parke-Davis as editor of “Modern Pharmacy.” In 1949, Bender received permission to proceed with the illustrations, then titled as “Great Moments in Pharmacy.”
The Parke-Davis Company commissioned artist Robert Thom to produce the illustrations for the series. Thom was well known as an illustrator of historical subjects, including great moments in baseball and the history of Illinois and Michigan. Bender consulted with George Urdang of the American Institute for the History of Pharmacy (AIHP) to select the “great moments” to be portrayed in the series.
Each print came with a history article and nomenclature that explained the depicted scene and its place in history. The collection launched in 1951 with the painting entitled “Before the Dawn of History,” which was the first of eighty-five pictures from both collections that would be presented over a thirteen-year span. The first 16 paintings in the “Great Moments in Pharmacy” series pay tribute to the accomplishments of the apothecaries and their predecessors in Babylon, China, Egypt, Persia and Europe. The remaining 24 paintings are devoted to pharmacy in the Americas, especially in the English colonies and the United States, and include coverage of the history of the American Pharmacists Association.
In 1953, Parke-Davis Vice President Carl Johnson suggested the development of the history of medicine series. Four years later, “A History of Medicine in Pictures” began publication in the January 1957 issue of the Parke-Davis journal “Therapeutic Notes.” New prints were released each year until 1964. The 45-painting series highlights major developments and the general evolution of medicine beginning in ancient Egypt.
CUSP Dean Ronald P. Jordan writes of the exhibit, “The Robert A. Thom print collections “The History of Medicine” and “The History of Pharmacy” are reprints of a famous set of original paintings that have been displayed at the Smithsonian Institute and the Hotel des Invalides in Paris, among other famous art museums. Parke-Davis, a pharmaceutical industry giant from decades ago, produced the print set of the original paintings for physicians and pharmacists in the early ’60s. Thom painted the originals in the early ’50s.
The original paintings for pharmacy have been gifted and now are on permanent display at the American Pharmacists Association Foundation on the mall in Washington, D.C. at 2215 Constitution Avenue. Parke-Davis was always a major supporter and donor of professional associations in pharmacy and medicine when that was a permissible marketing practice. They also created large famed replicas of the original paintings and gave them to the elected leaders of the various associations. One such replica hangs in the Dean’s Office at CUSP titled “The Founding of the American Pharmaceutical Association.” I have fond memories of receiving the framed replica at a reception following my installation into the APhA Presidency in 1998 at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Florida in 1998. Receiving your framed copy of one of these paintings was a memorable right of passage into Pharmacy Association Leadership enjoyed by many different pharmacy associations. The originals are very large and even more breathtaking.”
This collection was graciously donated to CUSP by Mr. Ray Stermer. The first ten images from both collections will be on display beginning October 21st, 2021. The remaining prints will be on display next year. Our Health Sciences librarian Ivan Portillo played a key role in the creation of this exhibit. Feel free to email him with any questions.