The Pharmacist-Owners of the Niagara Apothecary
1818 to 1964
Indeed, all the pharmacist-owners during the history of the practice from 1818 to 1964 were individuals who contributed significantly to the health needs of the citizens and to the community of what is now Niagara-on-the-Lake, which had gone by various names in its history, including briefly as capital of Upper Canada (later Ontario). All of them remain a part in various ways of what was restored and re-opened as a museum in 1971. Many of them also played active roles as contributors to the institutions of the town, from the positions of mayor to various roles with the library, historical society, fire department, Simcoe Park, the shade trees that still grace the streets, the introduction of the system of electric lights, the paved side walks, etc.
One of them, Paffard, provided his name for a street in town, a plaque outside the front entrance to the Court House, and his portrait in the library. In the words of one of the writers about the town's mayors, Paffard "used to just about own the town," having had the longest term as mayor, 26 years (in three separate terms between 1876 and 1895).
In any case, all the owners were certainly individuals. Starkwather founded the practice and flirted with commercialism versus professionalism, then opted to revert to the latter. Harvey imported most of the drug bottles and jars that still grace the shelves. Paffard moved the practice to its present location to open as one of the grandest buildings of the Canadian Confederation period in the whole area. Coyne operated the pharmacy briefly during World War I, but returned to his second pharmacy in nearby St. Catharines—however with the precious Harvey containers in tow to be cared for until they returned at the time of the restoration of 1971 to their former places on the shelves (in Paffard's remarkable building at Queen and King). Field took over from Coyne to maintain the reputation in the town and whole surrounding area as an institution of note to be patronized.
The Two Lives of the Apothecary
All in all, we can think of the Niagara Apothecary, under whatever name during its long history, as having had two lives. First, as a pharmacy practice that lasted continuously for almost 150 years, then since 1971 as a restoration of its glory of a century ago when, in 1869, Henry Paffard opened his splendid new facility at the location it still occupies now as a museum.
While the town has other noted historic sites that draw visitors from all over the world, the Niagara Apothecary museum certainly shares in that attention. During the period of about four months from Spring to Fall that the museum is open on a daily basis, then weekends for an additional month, it has counted some 100,000 visitors annually. North Americans by and large, along with visitors from the Orient, view it mostly perhaps as a curiosity, a piece of history now frozen in time. On the other hand, some Europeans see it as not unlike many of their own pharmacies of similar or older age still in active use. Canadian students, especially those in pharmacy programs, likewise think of it as having been frozen in some kind of time warp.
Perhaps one of the Apothecary's most distinguished visitors since its restoration has been the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in 1981, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the founding of what is now Niagara-on-the-Lake, when she stopped to dedicate a plaque (above) recognizing the Apothecary's importance and signed the guest register after a brief tour (above). It also served as a reminder of another British royal visit to the town in 1901 that brought the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall, who would become King George V and Queen Mary, the present Queen Elizabeth's grandparents. Their connection to the Apothecary came not as a visit from across the street at the Prince of Wales Hotel, where they stayed, but in partaking not once but twice of the figs grown locally by Henry Paffard, at that time only recently retired from his practice of many years, having opened his pharmacy at the present location in 1869.
Dr. Ernst W. Stieb, B.Sc.Phm., M.Sc.Phm., Ph.D.
Historian, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto Faculty of Pharmacy; Member Emeritus, OCP;
Curator, Niagara Apothecary Museum, since 1971.
- Dennis (Denny) H. Nolan, Phm.B.; Member Emeritus, OCP;
former Museum attendant;
former Director of Professional Relations, Geigy Pharmaceutical.
- E. Stanley Tolan, Phm.B., Member Emeritus, OCP;
former OCP Executive Assistant to the Registrar and Director of Administrations; former Museum manager/attendant.