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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • First City History: The legalized drugs, and a druggist, of Leavenworth's early years

  • In 1872, the pages of the Leavenworth Times were often filled with advertisements for drugs and medicine. The cure-all was Home Bitters, advertised to purify the blood, prevent chills and fever, intermittent and Bilious fever.It could cure indigestion, nervousness, loss of sleep, dyspepsia, female and summer disorders. It...
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  • In 1872, the pages of the Leavenworth Times were often filled with advertisements for drugs and medicine. The cure-all was Home Bitters, advertised to purify the blood, prevent chills and fever, intermittent and Bilious fever.
    It could cure indigestion, nervousness, loss of sleep, dyspepsia, female and summer disorders. It was recommended by the best physicians, advertisements read, and was available through reliable druggists.
    Leavenworth was not short on druggists, and in the 1872 Leavenworth city directory, there were more than nine listed under the heading of “Drugs and Medicines.” You could find one on the corner of most any block on Shawnee Street.
    One of those was Igel and Company, located on the southeast corner of Shawnee and Fifth streets.
    Richard Lewis Igel was born in Wurtemberg, Germany, on March 29, 1839, the son of Louis F. Igel, who was a pharmacist by occupation and a highly-respected citizen of his native home, according to the Portrait and Biographical Record of Leavenworth, Douglas and Franklin Counties in Kansas.
    In all accounts of Richard’s early years, there is no dispute he was very young when he learned the druggist’s trade from his father, who had learned it from his father. It was reported in The Times that he was 6 years old when he began learning the drug business.
    When the family came to America, they settled in Madison, Ind., for a few years before rafting down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River, settling in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and it was there the family operated a very successful business.
    Richard was 22 when President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to join the Northern Army on that fateful day of April 15, 1861. The Civil War was a fight he wanted to be a part of, but first he had to leave his family and Missouri.
    He fled North during the night, according to The Times, and returned to Madison, where he joined up with the 32nd Regiment Indiana Infantry, which was also known as the First German Regiment because it was an all-German regiment.
    There were more than 900 men in the ranks, according to German Sons in the American Civil War website, and it was "these men who provided the North one of the first tangible victories of the war," at Rowlett’s Station, Ky., during a time when the Union cause suffered embarrassment on other fronts.
    Because of a "broad and thorough knowledge of medicine and surgery," according to Portrait and Biographical Record, Corporal Igel was chosen as hospital steward and was under Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s command at the battle of Shiloh.
    The two-day battle produced more than 23,000 casualties and was the bloodiest battle in American history at its time, according to Civil War Battlefields. He was awarded the Legion of Honor medal for bravery, according to The Times.
    Page 2 of 3 - At the death of his father in 1863, Igel resigned from service as a second lieutenant. He married Aurora Emma Schuessler, the daughter of the surgeon of his company and a native of Madison.
    Igel returned home to Cape Girardeau, where he took charge of his father’s business. A union officer running a business in a Southern state could not have been very easy, let alone profitable for Igel.
    At some point, he left Cape Girardeau and is listed as a druggist at 638 Broadway in St. Louis, according to the St. Louis City Directory of 1866. It wasn’t long before he and his wife, along with their five children, took the riverboat journey on the Missouri River to Leavenworth.
    Once in Leavenworth, Igel wasted no time finding employment at the Kunz Brewery as a bookkeeper. During the next six years, he would work at several breweries before becoming involved with numerous drug stores throughout the downtown area.
    In 1878, the same year he bought his own drug store at the southeast corner of Shawnee and Fifth streets, Igel sat before the camera of E.E. Henry and had his portrait taken on a glass negative.
    Igel, as his father did with him, began training his namesake, Richard, in chemistry while he was still a young boy, making him the fourth-generation druggist in the family.
    A horrible accident befell the young Richard in the summer of 1878. He had accidentally stuck the point of a knife blade into the ball of his eye.
    After five months of waiting for the eye to heal, it was removed by an Army surgeon at Fort Leavenworth, according to The Times, in October 1878.
    In the next 10 years, Igel worked as a druggist for every drug store in town, from Eggersorf's on the northwest corner of Fourth and Shawnee, to Ummethen's at the northwest corner of Fifth and Cherokee.
    In May 1890, he was appointed druggist at the National Soldiers' Home, a position he had for 10 years. Then he opened the Seventh Street Pharmacy on the southwest corner of Seventh and Ottawa.
    Kansas had a prohibition of the sale of alcohol for 30 years, but drug stores were exempt from the law. One night, on Dec. 22, 1911, Igel and his family were subject to a home invasion of the worst kind.
    According to The Times, unable to find liquor in joints any more, secret agents of Gov. Stubbs raided residences. Accompanied by the sheriff, they went to the home of Igel, then 72.
    They searched every room. Trunks were broken open and their contents scattered. The contents of closets were torn down, bureau drawers ransacked and cupboards searched. They even went into the attic and searched packing cases that had not been opened in years. In the basement, barrels of potatoes and apples were emptied onto the floor.
    Page 3 of 3 - In an hour's time, they had discovered two bottles of wine that had been brought over from Germany some 60 years earlier. They were confiscated.
    The search of the drug store, which adjoined the residence, was next. Igel's license to sell liquor for medicinal purposes was torn from the wall and confiscated.
    More on this later …

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