Jones Rexall

Jones Rexall

Preface:

Thousands of Rexall Drug Stores fronted Main Street in communities throughout the nation for eight decades of the 20th century. Most were locally owned, and all possessed an exclusive franchise for Rexall brand merchandise in their town or section of a city. Actively supporting Rexall Stores were the management and advertising departments, factories and distribution networks comprising the vast corporate body of United Drug Company and its successor, Rexall Drug Company. Followers of this Blog will see gradual publishing of histories, vintage photographs and memorabilia acquired during twenty-five years of research and collecting—glimpses of the Rexall phenomenon and personalities that drove its creation and success.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How I became hooked on Rexall

From 1967 to 1982 I worked as a pharmacist in several Northern California Rexall drugstores—ultra visible to sidewalk traffic because of their bright blue and orange color schemes. During those years I handled various lines of merchandise, both OTC and Rx, experienced the frantically popular One Cent Sales, and became acquainted with representatives of the company. A few years later, in 1986, a chance encounter of seemingly small consequence triggered the beginning of 25-years of rather serious collecting and investigating related to the Rexall brand. A pharmacy clerk who was familiar with my passion for “old pharmacy stuff” spotted a small box in a storeroom and brought it to my attention. The item was labeled “Rexall Cold Sore Lotion,” and after some rummaging around we determined the little amber bottle and its colorful carton was the last surviving example of Rexall merchandise that once filled the store. The pharmacy's franchise, like thousands of other Rexall stores in the country, had been abandoned by Rexall Corp. of St. Louis in 1982.

Experience as an antique bottle collector taught me the desirability of anything produced by The Owl Drug Company—a chain of stores that had come and gone on the Pacific Coast during the fifty years before World War II. Gazing at the small Rexall remedy I realized that here too was a tiny vestige of a huge commercial venture that suddenly was no more—a nationwide organization of druggists that touched many lives for many years and now was all but vanished. At the same time, a bit of nostalgia came over me as I recalled flashes of good times enjoyed at our local Rexall stores during my adolescent years in suburban Los Angeles.

    Montrose Pharmacy, corner Honolulu & Ocean View 1942
Tujunga Rexall Drugs, corner Foothill & Commerce circa 1960
The search was on. For many years I haunted flea markets and antique shops from California to New England looking for Rexall consumer goods, and placed want ads in collector magazines to lure things out of the closet and medicine chest. The gratifying result: ancient bottles of Rexall Hair Tonic, cellophane-wrapped boxes of Plenamins capsules, and Rexall fish bowls found their way to my door. Then, in 1998—eBay! As the collection grew, and significant design/age differences became apparent, my curiosity about the history of Rexall shifted into high gear. I soon discovered the founding corporation, United Drug Company, had no surviving archives, and compiling a competent history would require some traveling.

1940 Cardboard Token   –   Neon sidewalk sign circa 1936
 The subsequent quest has been occasionally frustrating, often rewarding, and always fascinating. I’ve been welcomed into the homes of retired executives, salesmen and store owners for interviews and to receive generous contributions of photos, products and other memorabilia for my collection. I’ve toured the former United Drug Company office and factory buildings in Boston where cooperative manufacturing and the Rexall trademark were brilliantly combined in 1903 by marketing genius, Louis K. Liggett. Over the years I’ve gathered business files, photos, magazines, audio and video recordings of Rexall-sponsored radio and TV shows. Visits have been made to universities and the Library of Congress to study documents and publications of United Drug and individual Rexall drugstores. One collectible I’ve come to appreciate as a rich source of pictorial history is the vintage picture postcard. Street scenes often show drugstores identified with Rexall signs along with displays of merchandise in the windows. And a real treat is the postcard that reveals a store interior.

Earnshaw Drug Co., East Greenwich RI, 1948

3 comments:

  1. Hello. maybe you can help me. I am looking for a particular set of golf clubs sold in Rexall drugstores in Atlanta in the 1960's. Any idea where I could begin my search? Is there an archive of old ads or catelogs that you are aware of? Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Hello Jessica,
      There is no formal archive of Rexall Drug Co. merchandise catalogs and advertising. I have gathered up what was available on the antiques market over the past 25 years, and that collection is the most comprehensive to my knowledge. In referring to advertising and catalogs from the 1960s I find no mention of golf clubs. The Rexall Stores did sell Rex and Braeburn brand golf balls, but no clubs that I can discover. Merchandise in the stores was not confined to Rexall controlled brands, however, and a particular franchised agent or company store (Owl, Liggett's, etc.) could stock any merchandise they had good reason to believe was salable. I suggest you search Atlanta newspapers from that period for promotional ads placed by local Rexall stores. You might get lucky, and I hope you do.

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  2. Hi, If you have any Rain Goddess cologne by Rexall, I might be interested in purchasing. It was sold in the mid-60s to 1970s. Thanks!

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