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The Starkwather Years
1818/1820 - 1833

Rodman Starkwather
Rodman Starkwather is known to have established a pharmacy practice sometime between 1818 and 1820 in what is now Niagara-on-the-Lake. The first known newspaper ad (1820) for the pharmacy is seen at right. It identified the practice as "The Niagara Apothecary at the Sign of the Golden Mortar opposite Smith's Tavern."

Although the exact year is uncertain, we do know that the initial practice was on Prideaux Street - which runs parallel to Queen Street (the town's main street) - one block north to Lake Ontario. 

The interior of Starkwather's pharmacy could have been different in appearance and operation from what we are accustomed to today. The apothecary was likely more like a general store (see page 5), in terms of merchandise, with a dispensing practice as only a minor part. It was also one of several pharmacies in the early town, some owned by physicians, thus a competitive situation in a small town that served a primarily farming community. Clutter and dim light might have greeted the shopper. In the absence of paved streets, dust or mud from the road would have made housekeeping a challenge for staff.

In those early nineteenth century years many goods would have been sold in bulk from large storage containers (except prescriptions and related items including non-prescription medicines). Some items, such as sickroom supplies, might have been hung from the ceiling or joists.

In the early 1820s, soon after Starkwather moved to Queen Street, he took on a partner named Brown and the practice became "Starkwather and Brown." The professional character of the practice obviously also changed, since it then became the "Niagara Apothecary and Cheap Cash Store." Their advertisments offered whiskey by the barrel, dry goods, crockery, paints and varnish, and a variety of patent remedies.
Apparently, however, the practice developed enough so that they were able to announce the discontinuation of their dry goods and reverted to the more professional "Niagara Apothecary" name and practice, when in 1829, Starkwather returned to solo practice. Just a few years later, in 1833, Starkwather sold the practice to James Harvey.