Ehrlicher Brothers’ first prescription

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in February 2015 before the launch of this weblog.

Ehrlicher Brothers’ first prescription

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

When Pekin celebrated its centennial as an incorporated city in 1949, the Pekin Association of Commerce’s Centenary Committee assigned the task of compiling and publishing a souvenir book of Pekin’s history to a group of eight men and women.

The result was the 1949 “Pekin Centenary 1849-1949.” Chief among those who produced this book were Thomas H. Harris, chairman, Charles Dancey, who wrote the history, Bea Falkin and Charlotte Rau, who wrote other articles, and Marge Brenneman and June Wieburg, who were in charge of selling advertisements for the book.

While the Centenary’s historical narrative is naturally the heart and core of the book, the advertisements also in their own way help to tell of Pekin’s history. Often the ads take the form of tributes and congratulations to the community from its various businesses or social organizations, and many times the tribute ads include summaries of the history of the city’s businesses or utilities.

The tribute ad of Ehrlicher Brothers, on page 29 of the Centenary, is a perfect example of one of those historically informative ads. Not only did this long-established pharmacy take the opportunity to brag about their work — “All prescriptions entrusted to our care are filled as written — no substitution — which has gained us the confidence of the physicians who wrote them. All ingredients used are pure and fresh . . .” — but the ad also includes some fascinating historical details, making it of interest even today, long after Ehrlicher Brothers went out of business.

“We have just completed 85 years of continuous drug business in the same room. We feel we have a right to be proud of our record,” the ad says. Ehrlicher Brothers Co., Druggists, 328 Court St., was founded in 1864 by Henry M. and Otto D. Ehrlicher, sons of the German immigrant Johann Georg Ehrlicher (1824-1876) whom this column featured in October 2014. As we’ve noted before, Henry and Otto are recognized as Pekin’s first druggists, and along with their brother George and their wives they donated the land where the original Pekin Hospital was built in 1918.

The most fascinating detail of the Ehrlicher Brothers tribute ad, however, was that it includes “an exact reproduction of PRESCRIPTION No. ONE filled July 7, 1865, one year after the founding of our establishment. It was written by Dr. Samuel T. Maus for Mrs. James Haines Sr., two of Pekin’s earliest pioneers.” (In fact the prescription is clearly dated July 18, 1865, not July 7.)

Shown is a reproduction of Ehrlicher Brothers’ first prescription, from July 1865.

Regular readers of this column will recall that the Haines and Maus families were among the first settlers of Pekin. The life of Dr. William Maus, son of Samuel, was featured in Sept. 2013, while the life of pioneer settler William Haines, older brother of James Haines, was featured in May 2014. “Mrs. James Haines Sr.” was Annie, daughter of Dr. William Maus.

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Over a century of Pekin Hospital history

This is a revised version of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in May 2013 before the launch of this weblog, republished here as a part of our Illinois Bicentennial Series on early Illinois history.

Over a century of Pekin Hospital history

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The occasion of the Illinois Bicentennial is an ideal time to recall that Pekin’s hospital celebrated its own centennial just a little over five years ago. The history of this hospital – redubbed by its current corporate owners as “UnityPoint Health-Pekin” – began in 1913, when the community’s need for a public hospital led to the formation of a non-profit Pekin hospital corporation.

That is not the year Pekin Hospital opened its doors, however. Rather, that year the hospital’s board, headed by Presidents G. A. Kuhl and J. M. Rahn, commenced fundraising campaigns to raise money for the construction of a hospital. Those efforts enabled the construction of a hospital building in 1918, which therefore would be 100 years old if it still existed.

Shown is the original Pekin Hospital, built in 1918, photographed in 1928 from a path in the Sunken Gardens. Eventually this structure was torn down, but the main entrance was salvaged and is now attached to the north side of the 1931-2 addition, beneath a large clock.

The original hospital as seen from Park Avenue and 14th Street.

A closeup of the south end of the original Pekin Public Hospital building as seen from the area of 14th Street and Park Avenue about 1938.

Built by Ed F. Lampitt & Sons building contractors, the 1918 facility was erected on 14th Street between Court Street and Park Avenue on land donated by three Ehrlicher brothers and their wives, George Jr. and Mary, Henry and Amelia, and Otto D. and Minnie. (Henry and Otto were Pekin’s first pharmacists.) It should be noted that “Pekin: A Pictorial History” (1998, 2004), p.142, mistakenly substitutes the surname of “Herget” for George Jr.’s real surname.

The new edifice was formally dedicated Sunday afternoon, June 2, 1918, in ceremonies that were attended by a crowd of about 5,000. In its front page story on June 3, 1918, the Pekin Daily Times estimated that about 10,000 people toured the newly opened hospital that day.

This detail from the front page of the 3 June 1918 Pekin Daily Times shows the first part of the story about the formal dedication of Pekin’s new hospital.

The standard historical publications on Pekin’s history offer differing figures on the first hospital’s capacity. The 1949 Pekin Centenary says in one place that the hospital had a capacity of 20 beds, but elsewhere in the same book it says the capacity was only 18 beds, while the 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial says the hospital had a capacity of 30 patients. The Pekin Daily Times story of the dedication ceremonies says the hospital had “18 patients’ rooms, fully equipped.”

Whatever the correct figure was, within a few years the need was evident for a larger hospital. “In 1931, a $150,000 fundraising drive (no small feat during a depression) resulted in additional construction and remodeling which boosted the capacity to 75 beds. This portion of the hospital is on Park Avenue, and for many years the main entrance was from that street,” says the 1974 Sesquicentennial.

Pekin Public Hospital in a view looking across Park Avenue, from the 1949 “Pekin Centenary” volume.

As Pekin continued to grow, Pekin Public Hospital again had to be expanded. In the early 1950s, $750,000 was raised locally and was matched by a federal grant, enabling the construction of a six-story $1.5 million addition on Park Avenue that increased the hospital’s capacity to 150 beds. The expansion was formally dedicated on June 19, 1955.

“But Pekin’s growth continued, and some of the older parts of the hospital became outmoded, so in the early 1960s another drive was undertaken,” says the Sesquicentennial. “This one succeeded in raising $1 million locally, and hospital officials borrowed another $1.5 million from a firm in Wisconsin, thus providing the necessary funding for the most recent expansion on Court Street. The main entrance once again was moved, and presently leads into this new six-story addition. Total capacity is now over 230, and plans call for the erection of a sixth and seventh floor on this newest addition which will house an intensive care unit and the obstetrics ward. As these floors are made ready, other areas of the older parts of the hospital will be closed (in fact, at least two floors are not in use now), and the total capacity will be around 250.”

Pekin Memorial Hospital as photographed in 1966 by Ralph James Goodwin. Note that the original hospital building is still there, though wood paneling covers the north wall indicating construction work under way. The old building was torn down subsequently, but its entrance was salvaged and later installed on the north wall of the Park Avenue addition.

It was in 1976 that those additional two stories were built, housing intensive and coronary care as well as obstetrics and pediatrics. Then, from 1979 to 1981, areas of the 1932 and 1954 additions were renovated to make room for pharmacy, medical records, a medical library, electrocardiography, respiratory therapy and radiology.

On June 23, 1985, ground was broken on a $10.1 million addition that would include surgery and radiology as well as a lobby, pharmacy, gift shop, restaurant and Park Court Medical Center. The building program moved the main entrance from Court Street to 13th Street, where it is today.

In Jan. 2018, Pekin Hospital completed the process of affiliation with Des Moines, Iowa-based UnityPoint Health, joining a system that now includes Methodist Medical Center (“UnityPoint Health-Methodist”) and Proctor Hospital (“UnityPoint Health-Proctor”) in Peoria. A year later a state-of-the-art Pekin physicians center opened at Griffin and Veterans Drive on Pekin’s east end – a building project initiated by Pekin Hospital in 2015, before the hospital affiliated with UnityPoint Health.

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