Guide to the Records of the Putnam Drug Company, Inc., of Hanover, NH, 1795-1926WMAN MS-871

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Putnam Drug Company, Inc.
Title Remainder: Records. 1795-1926
Dates: 1795-1926
Identification: MS-871

Other Descriptive Data

Records of The Putnam Drug Company, Inc., of Hanover, NH, 1795-1926


History of the Putnam Drug Company, Inc., of Hanover, NH

The Putnam Drug Company was one of the longest continuously operating businesses in the history of Hanover, NH. It had perhaps as many as eight different owners under several different business names from the time it opened in 1793 until its closing around 1982. Over the years, it existed in several different locations in Hanover, survived a major fire in 1887, and at different times operated as a general store as well as pharmacy. That the business existed for nearly two centuries of almost continuous operation under so many different owners and situations is unprecedented.

Its founder, Rufus Graves (1758-1845, Dartmouth 1791), was a very enterprising, energetic man who was involved in many ventures throughout his life: he studied divinity under Professor John Smith (Dartmouth 1773) shortly after graduating from Dartmouth; owned a tannery in town; was heavily involved in the planning and building of the second bridge over the Connecticut River (Hanover to Norwich) from 1792 to 1796; built and opened his store in 1793; was appointed lieutenant-colonel in the 16th U. S. Infantry in May 1799 and had a recruitment office in Hanover until 1800; and he lectured in chemistry at the Dartmouth Medical School from 1812 to 1815.

The store Graves built was on land just south of the present Casque and Gauntlet house on South Main Street. It is believed that Mr. Graves dispensed drugs through his store as a pharmacist without a medical background, although this cannot be verified. However, it is likely that medicines were part of Graves' stock in trade. An assertion that Dr. Nathan Smith (Dartmouth H1798), founder of the Dartmouth Medical School, sold pharmaceuticals with a Mr. Abraham Hedge (Dartmouth M1799) in Graves' store under the partnership Smith & Hedge, is substantiated. It is not known how long they rented Graves' store or sold medicines through it. Dr. Smith and Dr. Hedge also had individual accounts at Graves' store and it is thought that Graves and Smith were friends. The Smith & Hedge partnership dissolved some time in 1799, probably some time after Hedge's graduation from the medical school.

Mr. Graves' involvement in the bridge project and other ventures exhausted his finances, so in 1797 he leased the store to two gentlemen, Dr. Elisha Phelps of Chatham, CT, and Mr. John Ellsworth. This arrangement seems to have postdated the renting of the store to Smith & Hedge. However, apparently due at least in part to a scandal involving Dr. Phelps, the partnership between the two was dissolved and the store was purchased outright from Rufus Graves in September of 1799 by Dr. Samuel Alden (1768-1842, Dartmouth 1795) of Stafford, CT. Dr. Alden ran the general store and drug business as separate entities by moving the drug business into an addition built onto the south side of the building. He made his son-in-law, Otis Russell Freeman (Dartmouth M1843) proprietor of the drug store, which became a successful business by itself. Freeman is believed to be the first to employ the use of prescriptions in the dispensing of drugs in the drug store.

Dr. Alden died in 1842. Since the store is believed to have been sold in 1844, it was probably sold by his son-in-law, Freeman. Dr. Thomas Prentiss Hill (1781-1866, Dartmouth M1816) resident of Conway and Sanbornton, NH, purchased the drug store and ran it under the title of T. P. Hill & Company for about twelve years. Hill was an avid believer in temperance and often lectured on the subject. One such lecture is located in a cash book from Hill's business held in Rauner Special Collections, Dartmouth College (Codex 002213). Dr. Hill sold the store in 1856 to Dr. James Austin Smith (1821-1901, Dartmouth M1849), a Hartford, VT resident.

Dr. Smith ran the business under the title J. A. Smith & Company for another twelve years. Dr. Smith employed Lucien Bliss Downing (1838-1917) as a clerk in the store, which began Downing's more than fifty-year involvement in the business. He became a business partner of Smith's in August of 1867. The partnership dissolved one year later, with Downing becoming sole owner in 1868. Lucien B. Downing carried on the drug business by moving it in his first year to a location on the east side of South Main Street in Hanover, just south of the current location of the Hanover Inn. It was moved again to the old Tontine Block on South Main Street, which was destroyed by fire in 1887. After the fire, and before settling at its last location, 32, 34, and 36 South Main Street, it is said to have existed in the Episcopal church's unconsecrated chapel on North Wheelock Street. The business operated predominantly under the name Dartmouth Pharmacy.

Lucien B. Downing was a prominent and well loved citizen and business man in Hanover and was known to many as “the Deacon.” He was said to have been a strong temperance advocate and was also against the use of tobacco of any kind. Mr. Downing was one of many individuals whose responsibility it was to tend to the shade trees in Hanover village, trimming and planting them as needed for many years. Mr. Downing was a driving force behind the formation of the New Hampshire Pharmaceutical Association, as well as the passing of laws regulating the pharmaceutical industry in the state. As a result of these innovations, he became the first registered pharmacist in the state of New Hampshire, as evidenced by his pharmaceutical certificate of 1874.

It was during Downing's ownership that Robert Joel Putnam (1877-1961) came to Hanover and began work at the pharmacy in 1899. He started work in the store as a clerk and some of his early duties included helping with drug mixtures and grinding glass stoppers to fit bottles. He lived on the premises and worked long days for $2 a week. By 1914, he had become a business partner with Mr. Downing in the store operation. Mr. Downing died in 1917 and Mr. Putnam purchased the store from Downing's widow and family shortly thereafter. Mr. Putnam ran the drug store under the name Putnam's Drug Store until 1955. During that year, the store was incorporated and was renamed the Putnam Drug Company, Inc., with Mr. Putnam as president of the company. Grant Eastman, founder of Eastman's Pharmacy in Hanover (1938), was an employee of Deacon Downing from 1910 to 1912 and of Robert Putnam after he graduated from the Boston College of Pharmacy in 1916.

Robert J. Putnam was a respected citizen of Hanover and held many town offices and positions during his 62-year residency. He served on the board of trustees of the Dartmouth Savings Bank of Hanover for 43 years, as chairman of that board for the last six years. He was a member of the Hanover School Board for 27 years, six as chairman. Mr. Putnam also served as selectman for the town of Hanover for twelve years, chairman for three years. He was a trustee of the Howe Library of Hanover for fifteen years. He was also a member of several other public and civic organizations, including the Hanover Rotary Club.

Robert J. Putnam's son, Richard W. Putnam (d. 2002) joined the company shortly after World War II ended. When the store was incorporated in 1955, Richard became manager. Richard's wife, Viola (Melendy) Putnam (1918-2000) was also an officer and director of the company from 1955 until 1978. Their son, Robert S. Putnam, was involved in the operation of the company, as well. The Putnams retired from the business and sold it to Richard B. and Jane Evans around 1982.

Scope and Content Note

The Records of the Putnam Drug Company, Inc., of Hanover, NH, 1795-1926 (28 boxes, 33 linear feet) contain a store ledger, account ledgers, cash books, invoices and receipts, a memorandum of articles of copartnership, poison registers, drug recipe books (prescription journals), an illustrated pharmaceutical company catalog, a drug label catalog, a pharmaceutical association membership certificate, glass druggist bottles, and drug and prescription labels. The collection's recipe books, which make up a majority of the collection, as well as the account books from Lucien Bliss Downing's ownership, partially detail the evolution of one pharmaceutical business in Hanover, NH over a 75-year period, 1851-1926. The recipe books were created under four different ownerships of the drug company and store. Ironically, only a small portion of the collection, the last one and one-half recipe books, were actually produced by the drug company while under the ownership of Robert J. Putnam. All of the earlier material was produced by three of the previous five owners of the company, dating back to its founder, Rufus Graves. However, the vast majority of the records were produced under the ownership of Lucien B. “Deacon” Downing. The recipe book entries detail the types of medications dispensed for various medical conditions over the years. They also indicate the many residents and families of Hanover and the local area that frequented the drug company during its long existence. Downing's account ledgers also detail who patronized the business on a regular basis during his ownership. The collection does not detail or describe in depth the daily operations or the conducting of business in the drug company, itself. However, the ledger of the founder of the business, Rufus Graves, does shed some light on the goings-on of a mercantile business for the time period it covers, the early to mid 1790s.

The brunt of the collection was given to Dartmouth College Library as a deposit in 1949, with more material arriving in 1953. There are no restrictions on the use of the collection. However, it is suggested that users wear gloves while handling the recipe books and other older bound volumes, as their leather covers and bindings have deteriorated from age.

Description of the Records

in Rauner Special Collections Library in Webster Hall

Dartmouth College Library

October 2000

Hanover, New Hampshire

The Records of the Putnam Drug Company, Inc., present an interesting view of the dispensing of prescriptions from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century in the store and pharmacy that was founded in 1793 by Rufus Graves. The one item from Graves' store, his second ledger, details the daily transactions of a merchant and his patrons. Of particular note in this ledger is the account of Smith & Hedge, a business partnership formed by Dr. Nathan Smith (Dartmouth H1798), founder of the Dartmouth Medical School, and Abraham Hedge (Dartmouth M1799). It was known that Smith & Hedge sold drugs in a drug store in Hanover, but its location had not been confirmed. An entry for September 20, 1796 in the Graves ledger (page 143, under the account “Smith & Hedge, Hanover”), records a 5£ debit “for rent of my store.” This seems to verify that they ran their business from Graves' store, though it's not clear for how long.

The “recipe books” (prescription journals) begin with the fourth owner of the pharmacy, Dr. Thomas Prentiss Hill (Dartmouth M1816). There is but one volume and his entries do not have names listed with them, just prescription numbers. However, the four recipe books from the fifth pharmacy owner, Dr. James Austin Smith (Dartmouth M1849), cover prescriptions filled throughout his entire ownership, 1856-1868. These volumes, as with all the fourteen recipe books through Lucien Bliss Downing's ownership (1868-1917), and the two volumes from Robert Joel Putnam's ownership after 1917, contain the names of the individuals whose prescriptions were filled, along with the number. As Mr. Downing seems to have been a meticulous records-keeper, labels from his store appear on the bindings of all the recipe books dating back to Dr. Hill and contain the prescription number range for each volume.

Other records produced during Downing's ownership are somewhat revealing insofar as the store's operation. His three volumes of cash books recorded cash transactions of several different kinds: cash received from trade and outside of trade, cash sales, cash paid for goods and freight expenses, store expenses, and cash paid out. Identified are some of the vendors who supplied various stock and goods items for the store and pharmacy. Downing's alphabetically-indexed account ledgers detail the many different accounts held at the store during nearly his entire ownership. These ledgers are most indicative of the many individuals, towns, and businesses that patronized Downing's store. More than twenty-five departments within Dartmouth College alone were regular patrons and had accounts with the store. Other entities listed in the index are the towns of Hanover, NH and Norwich, VT, Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital, formerly of Hanover, as well as many Dartmouth professors.

The bound volume of invoices covering the years 1885 and 1886 are a collection of the various bills and receipts paid for goods and services by Lucien B. Downing. Though for only a brief period, this volume reveals who Downing was purchasing his wares from both locally and outside the area. Bills from the Hanover Gas Light Company show monthly gas usage and cost. An invoice from the Society of Shakers of Enfield, NH listed machine oil as an item purchased by Downing. Of particular interest are the bills that indicate the sources and suppliers of wholesale drugs for Downing's pharmacy business. Gilman Brothers of Boston, MA was a supplier of not only alcohol and rum, but also of narcotics substances such as opium, cocaine, and morphine. Many of these drugs were sold without restrictions until the Harrison Narcotics act of 1916 came into effect. Suppliers of perishable goods, freight haulers, and other goods and services are also evidenced by these invoices.

A volume of invoices of goods, otherwise known as inventories, shows January itemizations of goods (“stock & fixtures”) for Downing's store for the years 1892, 1901, 1907, 1909, and 1911. Each successive inventory reveals an ever-increasing value in goods for those years. Total worth of goods counted in stock at Downing's store increased from $6,442.21 in 1892, to $8,493.74 in 1907, to $10,530.46 in 1911. The inventories also reveal the types of merchandise sold within Downing's store at those times.

Two volumes of poison registers detail the records of sales of known poisons, as required by law. Each volume included known drug laws for each state in the country and detailed what information needed to be recorded. Information that was to be recorded with each sale in the state of New Hampshire included the type and amount of poison sold, who it was sold by, the intended use, the name and address of the purchaser, and the date.

Also included in the collection is a Certificate of Membership in the New Hampshire Pharmaceutical Association, awarded to Lucien Bliss Downing in 1871. This made Downing the first registered pharmacist in the state. As with a number of other items in the collection, there is evidence of water and fire damage, probably from the 1887 fire that destroyed Hanover's Tontine Block, where Downing's store was located.

The Records of the Putnam Drug Company, Inc., are arranged chronologically by store owner and alphabetically by type or title of record, therein.

Related Materials

A History of the town of Hanover, N.H.


(28 boxes, 33 linear feet)

BOX : 1

Item No. 1

Guide to the Records of the Putnam Drug Company, Inc., of Hanover, NH, 1795-1926

BOX : 2


Hill, Dr. Thomas Prentiss (Dartmouth M1816). “Recipe book” (prescription journal)

Sep 1851-Dec 1854


Smith, Dr. James Austin (Dartmouth M1849). “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 1

Oct 1856-Apr 1858


Smith, Dr. James Austin (Dartmouth M1849). “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 2

Apr 1858-Jul 1862

BOX : 3


Smith, Dr. James Austin (Dartmouth M1849). “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 3

Aug 1862-Aug 1865

BOX : 4


Smith, Dr. James Austin (Dartmouth M1849). “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 4

Sep 1865-Aug 1868


Smith, Dr. James Austin and Downing, Lucien Bliss. Memorandum of articles of copartnership and of the later dissolution of said partnership (on verso). Signed by Smith and Downing.

Aug 22, 1867; Aug 22, 1868

BOX : 8


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “Catalog & Price List of Drug Labels...” Woodbury Label Company, Woodstock, VT



Downing, Lucien Bliss. Certificate of Membership in the New Hampshire Pharmaceutical Association. Original and photostat, rolled


BOX : 10


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “[A New Edition of] Pharmaceutical Labels Compiled From the United States Pharmacopœia...” Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, Philadelphia, PA



Downing, Lucien Bliss. Poison register

Jan 1888-Jan 1904


Downing, Lucien Bliss. Poison register

Jan 1904-Jan 1909

BOX : 11


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 1

Aug 1868-Jul 1870

BOX : 12


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 2

Aug 1870-Dec 1872

BOX : 13


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 3

Jan 1873-May 1875

BOX : 14


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 4

Jun 1875-May 1879

BOX : 15


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 5

Jun 1879-Nov 1881


Perkins, C. D. “Recipe book” (prescription journal), Record A. NOTE: Perkins was bought out by Downing in 1880 after his drug business failed.

Jun 1879-Sep 1880

BOX : 16


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 6

Dec 1881-Feb 1884

BOX : 17


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 7

Feb 1884-Jul 1888

BOX : 18


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 8

Aug 1888-Jun 1892

BOX : 19


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 9

Jul 1892-Jul 1896

BOX : 20


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 10

Aug 1896-Sep 1900

BOX : 21


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 11

Oct 1900-Mar 1904

BOX : 22


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 12

Mar 1904-Mar 1907

BOX : 23


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 13

Mar 1907-Jun 1910

BOX : 24


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 14. NOTE: Robert Joel Putnam became Downing's business partner in 1914.

Jun 1910-Apr 1916

BOX : 25


Downing, Lucien Bliss. “Recipe book” (prescription journal), volume 15. NOTE: Downing died in 1917 and R. J. Putnam bought the business from Downing's widow in 1918.

Apr 1916-Mar 1923

BOX : 26


Putnam, Robert Joel. “Recipe book” (prescription journal)

Mar 1923-Mar 1926

BOX : 27


Bottle made for C. D. Perkins, druggist, Hanover, NH. NOTE: Perkins was bought out by Downing in 1880 after his drug business failed.

c. 1880


Bottle with label. Rose Water. Dartmouth Pharmacy, Downing & Putnam. Prescription Druggists, Hanover, NH.

c. 1914-1917


Labels: blank; various drugs. Dartmouth Pharmacy (Downing), Dartmouth Pharmacy (Downing & Putnam), Dartmouth Pharmacy (Putnam), Putnam's Drug Store, Putnam Drug Company, Inc.

c. 1910-1950

BOX : 28


Bottle with label. Denatured Alcohol. Dartmouth Pharmacy, Hanover, NH.


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