First Druggist Society

Nurnberg druggist logo 1632

First Society of Druggist
The following comes from American Druggist February 1934 edition written by Marvin Small
IN THE quaint little city of Nurnberg, where a Woolworth 5-and-10-cent store flaunts its bright red modern front at one end of the main street and St. Lawrence Church, many centuries old, stands sedately at the other, the first of all pharmacy societies was born, over 300 years ago.
Back in the days of magic, a century before the renaissance of knowledge in Europe, the walled village of 10,000 which was Nurnberg, had its Swan Apothecary Shop. By 1442 the town had grown to 17,000, and the pharmacy established in that year, the Mohren-apotheke, is still in existence.
It was in 1632, the year of the town's famous defense by King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden against a lengthy siege, that the five pharmacists decided to organize. They formed the Nurnberg Pharmacy Society, which is now entering its fourth century.
Those were exciting times for the Nurnbergers and the pharmacists, not surprisingly, were getting it in the neck. They had suffered for 40 years under the oppressive legislation which the doctors of the town had obtained. They were ignored by the physicians and their legal and professional standing had undergone a decline.
With the big Swedish army in town, with Wallenstein's army, just as big, encamped outside the walls, with food and medical supplies dwindling, famine and epidemic threatening daily, the importance of the apothecaries, dispensers of medicines and remedies, was impressed on the burgomeisters of Nurnberg as never before.
In the emergency, the druggists served well. The defense was successful. The Swedish king marched out, Wallenstein marched away. Nurnberg caught its breath. Out of the ordeal the pharmacists had come with a precious charter for their newly formed society. From that moment on, they were to enjoy the status of professional men, honored for their civic pride and loyalty, their faithful service in time of stress and danger.
Thus the birth of the world’s first society of druggists was one of glory, and its charter may be said to commemorate the first recognition of the professional standing of the pharmacist. Nurnbergers celebrated the military victory by ordering the stone wall, which is still standing (1934), decorated with a virgin's picture. This symbolize the fact that no besieging army had ever ravished the city.
Boom times had come and gone. The town clung to old-fashioned ways. In the good old days Nurnberg had been the point of contact between the rich trade out of the Orient through Venice, for the rest of Europe. But when Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and so found a new water route for drugs, spices, gold and silks, Nurnberg's big days were over.
WITH a depression on that was to last for several centuries, competition became bitter. The newly-formed society decided that something ought to be done about it. One of its very first acts was to pass a strong resolution of protest against the grocers who were selling drugs in their establishments. The drugs included some strange items, such as heartsugar, breastsugar, pure electuary, and margrave powder.
Another necessity faced the society. In order to conduct its business and make its work effective, there had to be funds in the treasury. At first, each member was assessed one ducat, a gold coin worth $2.16 in our money.
In 1750, it was estimated that the working capital of a pharmacy was 16 to 20,000 gulden, and the yearly profit at best 3,000 gulden, in addition to about 500 gulden in bad debts. They had collection worries, too!
IN 1806 there were only six pharmacies allowed for the population of 25,000, but by 1882, with the rise of the factory age, the population had increased to 100,000 and the number of pharmacies to 16. That figures about one drug store to every 6,000 people.
In 1900 the members of the Pharmacy Society began to suffer a series of hardships from which they are only now recovering. First a strike of employes, who demanded alternate nights off, all Sundays off, and more money. Then came the rise in prescriptions for medical specialties, which reduced the pharmacist's profits. Then the increase in Sickness Insurance cases, which meant calls for the very cheapest drugs and supplies. Then the war, with its increased costs, lack of clerical help, paper bandages, wooden corks—and constant fear. Then inflation, when money became absolutely valueless and hard times struck as never before. 
By clinging together during these turbulent days, the membership of the Pharmacy Society remained intact, and when the storm passed, the same owners stood smiling behind the same counters of their fine old ethical pharmacies.