Early Pharmacy in Washington

Washington Territory’s first doctors prescribed and made their own medicines compounded from plants.  Plant leaves, roots and seeds were ground into powders and made into pills, liquids and plasters.  Widely used were belladonna for headaches and cramps, bloodroot for throat infections and foxglove (digitalis) for the heart.  Each prescription was “tailor made” and dosages often varied as well as plant combinations.

But there were early drug stores as well, such as the one run by Lot Wilbur in Snohomish who first set up at a temporary location and then settled in to a permanent place at 1201 First Street.   By the time of the first Polk’s city directory in 1893, Everett listed the Everett Drug Co., Hawley’s, Lytle & McCauley, Watkin’s Brothers and Webb’s.  Two pharmacies that would have a long life were Tozer’s (1901) and City Drug (1917).

The Eli Lilly Company, located in Indianapolis, Indiana, was one of the earliest large pharmaceutical companies, its roots going back to the Civil War.  More large companies formed in the U. S. in the early twentieth century.  Gradually chemical drugs began to be made available, under professional supervision, insuring greater consistency and safety.  At the same time, many pharmacists continued to compound their own medicines for decades.  By 1970, only about one percent of prescriptions were compounded.  Today medicinal compounding is continued mainly through traditional Asian, homeopathic and folk medicine.

Polk’s Directory listing for Everett

1893 Everett Drug Company, Hawley’s, Lytle & McCauley, Watkin’s Brothers and             Webb’s.

1901-02 Everett Drug Company, Hardy Rice, Tozer’s

1905 Everett Drug Company, Pioneer Drug, Quaker and Tozer’s

1910 Owl Drug Store added to the 1905 list

1918 City Drugs, Dean’s Pharmacy, Eagle Pharmacy, the Owl Drug Store and Quaker             Drugs

1922 City Drugs, Owl Drug Store, Lowell Drugs

1933 During the Great Depression, there were 17 pharmacies in Everett and 16 others in the county.

1947 City Drugs (with Herb Knudsen), along with 21 others.

Text Courtesy Margaret Riddle

Images Courtesy Margaret Riddle and and O’Donnell

Carter Drugs

When LeRoy Carter came to Everett in 1946, he didn’t plan to stay.  World War II had just ended and he was serving aboard the cargo vessel USS Tate.  The ship had been damaged in the invasion at Okinawa and was brought to the Everett Shipbuilding and Drydock Company for repairs.  A blind date with Marilyn Nowak changed his life.  A year later he and Marilyn married and soon went into business partnership as well, starting Carter’s Drug Store at 2215 Broadway Avenue.  Their marriage lasted 61 years and they ran the store for 41.

When Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, Le Roy was in his senior year at a North Dakota college, planning to become a pharmacist.  His school  allowed him to fast track courses so that he could obtain his pharmacy license before enlisting in the Navy.  Marilyn was an Everett girl, born in Tye, Washington, who had moved with her family (the Nowaks and the Goldthorpes) following a fire that destroyed the small town in the late 1920s.  In Everett, she attended Garfield, North Junior and Everett High schools.

A Family Business

Following a large wedding—with five bridesmaids and a wedding cake made by collecting wartime sugar rations—LeRoy and Marilyn took up residence in Everett.   Le Roy began working for Herb Knudsen at City Drugs, a business that could trace its roots to the early 1900s.  With financial backing from his father, Le Roy was able to begin Carter’s Drug Store in a building constructed by Marilyn’s aunt, Naomi King to house a snack shop and the pharmacy.  From the start, Marilyn was a full-time business partner, not only helping Le Roy but working in the snack shop as well.

The Carters had plenty of competition.  When they opened their doors in 1948, there were already 22 other drug stores in town.  In order to succeed, Marilyn and Le Roy knew they had to work harder than the rest.  Other drug stores in Everett were closed on Sundays and on week days were open only until 6 p.m.  Carter’s was different.  The drug store operated every day—even holidays—from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.  Marilyn recalls that LeRoy once worked for 18 months straight without a day off.

To local residents, the Carters were family.  They were trusted and respected and their good reputation extended well beyond Everett’s boundaries.  It was not unusual for customers to travel long distances on holidays for needed prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines.  In Marilyn’s words, “Fourth of July was wild” as they often treated injuries from fireworks.  In the 1940s the practice of “clinical pharmacies” had begun, which allowed licensed pharmacists to offer patient care in emergencies, thus optimizing the healing.  And physicians trusted Le Roy to prescribe for their patients while they were away.

Having lost his mother when he was young, LeRoy considered Marilyn’s mother to be his own mom and she came to live with them.  When the Carters first baby arrived, Grandma Nowak helped with the child care. But often, the Carters cared for the baby in the pharmacy while waiting on customers.   The Carters raised a son and a daughter.  When the children were older, they worked in the pharmacy on holidays and customers would stop by to give the family holiday greetings.  At times when a customer needed medicine for a child and could not pay, the Carters did not charge.

“We started from our first roll of Tums”

Carter’s sold greeting cards and gifts, along with drugs.  Marilyn became clerk, buyer and a Class A Pharmacist Assistant, which allowed her to count and package pills and keep business records.  And on the occasional times when they briefly did not have a delivery boy, she and Le Roy personally delivered orders to homes and businesses.  Marilyn remembers one delivery vividly.  The customer was a local tavern owner.  Marilyn was pregnant at the time and that day had to take her older child along with her in a stroller.  She chuckles when recalling the tongue-lashing she received from a concerned woman watching her enter and exit the tavern, one child in tow and another on the way.

Polio, Flu and HIV

The Carters entered the pharmacy business at the height of the polio epidemic.  Marilyn remembers the huge relief that came when a successful polio vaccine was made available in the 1950s.  At this time also sulpha and penicillin were beginning to transform medical treatment of many illnesses.  A big scare would come in later years from HIV and, in the first years of its diagnosis, even pharmacists feared coming in contact with ill patients.   Part of a pharmacist’s work involved educating the public about disease prevention and medication.

But drugs themselves could also be the culprit and patients generally came to their pharmacist first if they had an adverse drug reaction.  This practice ended as insurance coverage became a necessary part of the pharmacy business.  There were sometimes substandard drugs on the market too but Le Roy made a practice of dealing with only respected pharmaceutical companies.

2227 Broadway

In the 1950s street improvements were made to Broadway Avenue and Carter’s opened in a new store.  After seven years in its original location, the pharmacy was moved to a new concrete block building a half block south at 2227 Broadway.  The new store featured a towering neon sign, lots of plate glass, a blue and white interior color scheme and a terrazzo floor.  They now had more elbow room.  Carter’s Drugs officially opened in its new location on April 1 and 2, 1955, offering gifts to all who stopped in on those days.  The Carters promised to provide a complete line of pharmaceuticals and sundries.  In the years that followed “sundries” even included chocolate eggs that Marilyn made and sold at Easter.

Carter’s, Tozer’s and Owl Drugs

Three of Everett’s largest pharmacies were Carter’s, Tozer’s and Owl Drugs.  Eventually the Carters owned all three, Marilyn working shifts at each one.  After 41 years in business, the Carters retired and sold the pharmacy to Jerry Rock who continued the pharmacy under the Carter name for another decade.

Today both Carter’s Drug Store buildings, as well as the Carters first home, are gone.   LeRoy died on January 2, 2008, at the age of 87.

As a tribute to the history of early pharmacy, Marilyn has given the artifacts she has saved from Carter’s and Tozer’s to the Marysville Historical Society and hopes to see them one day displayed to show the history of pharmacy over the years, from the days when medicines were compounded from plants to the rise of large pharmaceutical companies and ever-newer medications.

Memories of Carter’s:

From historian David A. Cameron, originally of Everett, now Index.

“What I remember most vividly was when we needed prescription medication on a Sunday early afternoon, the only place we knew would be open then to fill it was Carter’s.  I parked on the corner, walked straight back to the counter, and was tremendously relieved that it could be filled right away.  As I waited I recall wandering the aisles, looking at everything in stock, especially the local Washington products which were being featured.  I had a real feeling of gratitude that the pharmacist would be willing to work on what normally would be a day off with family just in case someone had a problem which couldn’t wait.  Nice people!  That was at 2227, probably in the 1970s.”

From local historian Jack O’Donnell, Everett

“There was a script neon sign above the pharmacy in the back (east side) of the store (at 2227).  As I remember it started lower and then went up to the end of the word.  As I recall, Marilyn Carter told me she had designed that.  I also remember ordering goodies.  I remember buying some poker chips there as they had an odd lot of things.  The hot nuts were delicious.  It was a great store and sometimes the only pharmacy in town open at odd hours.”


Barbara George, Lita Sheldon, Margaret Riddle and Wendy Becker video interview with Marilyn Carter, October 2009; Phil Dougherty, HistoryLink.org essay, “Pharmacy in Washington State: A History,” June 12, 2010;  Nancy Rockafellar, editor, Saddlebags to Scanners: 100 Years of Medicine in Washington State,  Washington State Medical Association, Seattle, 1989. Images Courtesy of Jack O’Donnell. Text Courtesy of Margaret Riddle.

Everett Oral Histories

If you’re interested in Everett history from a first-person POV you should definitely check out Everett Public Library podcasts. What an amazing resource with great stories!

Everett Stoveworks

We were so excited to be offered some amazing items from the historic Everett Stoveworks. While we are still in the process of accessioning the objects, we wanted to share with you. More to come!


The Black Prince

The Museum has many treasures in its collection – one of the largest and most impressive is the captain’s wheel from the steamboat the Black Prince.

Dating from 1901, the 8-foot radius wheel graced the all black boat named after a dream of Captain Charles Elwell.

The wheel was so large, in fact, that it did not actually fit in the wheelhouse and stuck out the doors. Later wheels made for the boat were much smaller. Built by the Snohomish and Skagit River Navigation Company of Everett and powered by two extremely large (10 by 48 foot) steam engines and a 100 horsepower brickyard boiler, the Black Prince worked towing logs for the prolific sawmills of Everett. The hull was 93 feet and rated for a tonnage measurement of 159 gross tons.

Decommissioned in 1935, it was offered for the token sum of one dollar to the Everett Yacht Club by then Captain Harry Ramwell, owner of the American Tug Boat Company, who had purchased it in 1922. The boat, after a remodel and being shored on timbers, became the Club’s official meeting room on July 3, 1936 and was utilized for community functions including Everett High School dances.

Loaned to the Museum in 2007 to celebrate their 100th anniversary, it took 5 men to move the approximately 600 pound solid oak wheel.



Everett Yacht Club Centennial Book, 2007, p. 18

Snohomish County-An Illustrated History, 2005, p. 87

Bloody Sunday: The Everett Massacre

Once proudly called the “City of Smokestacks,” 19th- and early 20th-century Everett was a blue-collar, union, mill town with two dozen saw mills and shingle mills.

But most worker faced long hours and extremely dangerous working conditions.

Accidents are so common that frequently a shingle worker is recognized by his missing fingers, lost in accidents with unguarded saws, and 15% of all deaths recorded in the city in 1909 are from mill accidents.

By the early 1900s, in reaction to this environment, much of the city’s male workforce is unionized. With twenty-five different unions, local Labor support is so strong that in January 1909 the region’s Labor Journal begins publication from the local union hall on Lombard Street gaining Everett regional prominence.

Recovering from a sharp recession in 1914 that allows mill owners to lower pay rates, Everett mill workers are still not receiving their previous scale pay by 1916. In the spring of that year, 400 shingle workers vote to strike in hopes of regaining their pre-recession wage scale. As part of a growing regional center, with a population around 35,000, local mill workers are proud of their status as trade workers and members of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Yet, they often find themselves at odds with the more radical Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies) who want to create a union that includes unskilled workers.

On August 19, 1916, Strike-breakers, hired by mill owner Neil Jamison, attack picketing AFL strikers while the local police look on maintaining that the waterfront area being  federal property is beyond their jurisdiction. When strikers retaliate later that evening, the police intervene proclaiming the strikers have crossed the line of jurisdiction. On  August 22, when twenty-two AFL members speak out about the incident they are quickly arrested.

Throughout September and October of 1916 groups of Wobblies, using their right of free speech on the streets of Everett, specifically a soap-box oratory on the corner of Wetmore  and Hewitt, are arrested and beaten by local law enforcement. To challenge the local law, especially Snohomish County Sheriff Donald McRae, a former shingle worker, the  Wobblies encourage an environment of free speech, and local readily join in. One local woman is even pulled off of the soap-box for reciting the Declaration of Independence.

In reaction to the spectacle that the soap-box oratory has become, in mid-October, forty Wobblies are escorted by deputies to an area known as Beverly Park where they are  brutally beaten and told to get out-of-town. Despite severe injuries, some are forced to walk the 25-mile Interurban Trail back to Seattle.

After 150 deputies force Wobbly soap-box speakers to run a gauntlet where some are impaled on spiked cattle guards, the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) call for a  mass meeting in Everett on November 5.

The Wobblies vow to return, in greater numbers, to show solidarity for their cause.

Affairs between the Unions and law enforcement are swiftly coming to a head. And on Sunday, November 5, 1916, the bloodiest battle in Pacific Northwest labor history occurs.

On that day almost 300 members of the I.W.W. board the steamers Verona and Calista from Seattle and head north to Everett. The I.W.W. plan a public demonstration for that afternoon on the corner of Hewitt and Wetmore, the same spot used by local Wobblies.

They hope to gain converts to their dream of a single world-wide union.

On November 5, word reaches Everett law enforcement that a group of armed anarchists are coming to burn their town. Under the authority of Sheriff McRae, 200 citizen deputies meet on the docks at the base of Hewitt to repel the intruders.

The Verona arrives first, pulling in alongside the dock.

Courtesy of the Everett Public Library
Sheriff McRae asks, “Who is your leader?”
Informed “We are all leaders!” he announces to the passengers that they are not to land. A single shot is fired, followed by minutes of chaotic shooting. To  this day no one knowns if the first shot came from the boat or the dock.

Attempting to avoid bullets, Wobblies aboard the Verona rush to the opposite side fo the ship, nearly capsizing the vessel. Captain Chance Wiman ducks  behind the ship’s safe, a fortuitous move when over 175 bullets pierce the pilot house. Warning the Calista not to land, Captain Wiman struggles to back  the ship out of port and return to Seattle.

On the dock, Deputies Jefferson Beard and Charles Curtis lay dying, and 20 others, including the Sheriff, are  wounded. On the Verona’s deck, Wobblies  Hugo Gerlot, Abraham Rabinowitz, Gus Johnson, and John Looney are dead and Felix Baran is dying.

While the official I.W.W. report lists five dead and twenty-seven wounded, it is more likely that as many as twelve Wobblies lost their lives, their bodies  disappearing into the bay after the Verona’s far railing broke.

The Federal Government deploys National Guard troops to Everett and Seattle to keep the peace and citizens remain fearful for days. Seventy-four Wobbly passengers are arrested upon their return to Seattle and eventually taken to the Snohomish County jail.

All but one are released.

Teamster Thomas Tracy is charged with murdering Deputies Curtis and Beard, but in a dramatic and much publicized trial that follows, Tracy is acquitted.

The Everett Massacre appears in newspapers throughout the United States. Today, it is still considered one of the most significant events in 1916 America.

Courtesy of the Everett Public Library
Text Courtesy of Gene R. Fosheim. Additional Research Assistance Provided by Rep. Mike Sells. Images from the Collection of The Snohomish County Museum of History.