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Hugo Andriessen: Proprietor of the
Beaver Drugstore and Natural History Museum

By Roger Applegate

Milestones Vol 34 No. 4

For many years stretching between 1869 and 1906, Beaver residents were able to visit the Beaver Drugstore, owned by Mr. Hugo Andriessen, to get their prescriptions filled at what had been described as the best equipped and largest pharmacy in the county. The casual visitor would have been surprised to learn about the variety of Mr. Andriessen's interests and marvel at the sight that greeted them when entering his store. They would learn very quickly that this was neither your average druggist nor your average drugstore.

Hugo Andriessen was born on June 14, 1843 in a little town called Steele located along the Ruhr river in what was then Rhenish Prussia. His father was a civil engineer who constructed railroads in not only Germany, but also in Austria, Portugal and Russia. Hugo received the bulk of his education in schools in both Germany and Austria, but due to his father's constantly changing assignments to other European countries, he took the opportunity to expand his knowledge of languages beyond his native German. As Hugo grew to manhood absorbing knowledge like the proverbial "sponge", no one would have been surprised to learn that the science of natural history was to become another of his many intellectual passions.

In 1861, the Andriessen family immigrated to the United States and settled in Pittsburgh where Hugo began clerking in a number of prominent drugstores. Finally in October of 1869, Hugo moved to Beaver where his apprenticeships in the Pittsburgh drugstores paid off as he opened his own store on Third Street and named it "Beaver Drugstore". Throughout this busy period of his life, Hugo began romancing Miss Louisa McKinley, formerly of Darlington, and they were eventually married on May 12, 1870. The couple was to have three children: Belle (1871), Fritz (1873) and Edith (1875).

In time, his store was to become locally famous, not only for its pharmaceutical inventory, but also because it contained a large natural history collection. The following description can be found in History of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, 1888:

"The Beaver Natural History Museum ­ One of the finest and rarest private collections is now on exhibition in the mammoth Centennial show case, at Mr. Hugo Andriessen's Beaver drug store. The beauty of many of the specimens excites the wonder and curiosity of the public, and almost daily new attractive additions take the lover of nature by surprise. The departments of geology and mineralogy contain one thousand rare minerals, all arranged according to Professor Dana's classification, showing every crystallized form, all principal ores, and every known chemical element. This collection is very interesting on account of the number of typical gold, silver, copper, lead and iron ores from all parts of our own country, and the attention of visitors is especially called to the exquisitely beautiful crystallizations and splendid forms of minerals from New Mexico - a donation from Major Thomas Henry, who has recently returned from this new Eldorado of gold and silver. There are also to be found in this unique collection valuable and curious fossils which must delight every true Paleontologist; petrified ferns from the carboniferous age, presented by Hon. Mansfield, from his famous cannel coal mines near Darlington; a large number of Beaver County birds, which, by the art of the taxidermist, look as natural as ever; while preserved in spirits are some horrid and frightful looking reptiles, lizards, devil fish, etc. But even this is not all; for new wonders meet one at another section of the case, which contains stuffed alligators, lobsters, crabs, corals, shells, sponges and many other ocean curiosities, which are followed by insects, butterflies, moths, etc., and skulls, skeletons of many animals. Mr. Andriessen has also a very extensive herbarium, containing nearly all the flora of Beaver County, and specimens of the material medica, which show the crude drugs used in medicine from all parts of the world. This part of the museum is of great interest to members of the medical faculty. This museum also contains an immense marine specimen donated by Hon. M. S. Quay, a tarpon (Megalops thrissoides), the largest of its kind ever captured on the coast of Florida, measuring six feet three inches."

A familiar visitor to this apothecary shop during the summer of 1889 was Rudyard Kipling, a young British writer who was here to visit with the Rev. R.T. Taylor family. Kipling would later garner worldwide fame for his short stories and poetry, but at the time was a little known author traveling from India. Legend says that Kipling acquired his gin and tonic habit in India as a preventative against malaria, and since alcohol was not available in Beaver, Mr. Kipling would have to get his morning tonic by "prescription" at a local pharmacy. The story, as related by Mr. Bob Smith of Beaver, goes on to say that Kipling got his prescription through a conversation with Senator Matthew Quay who was also the owner of the building housing the Beaver Drugstore. Apparently, Andriessen lived in a house on Insurance Street directly behind the store, and according to some accounts, when Kipling arrived at the store, Andriessen would make a trip to the basement of his home to get some gin from his private stock, and mix it with his tonic water. In any event, Kipling would be found every morning sitting in front of the Beaver Drugstore in Dr. Taylor's carriage dressed in his white India suit and pith helmet while sipping some of the druggist's famous "tonic water".

Hugo Andriessen proclaimed himself a radical socialist in his politics. He certainly believed in and supported the political stance of Victoria Woodhull as evidenced by a letter he sent to Milo Townsend in June of 1873 applauding the latter's defense of Victoria Woodhull. Little known today, Woodhull was an extremely controversial figure who was a national advocate of women's suffrage, personal and social freedoms, union labor relations, birth control, spiritualism, legalized prostitution, dress reform for women and most scandalously, free love. She was also the first female stockbroker and ran for President on the Equal Rights ticket in 1872. In the letter, Andriessen tells Townsend that:

"I also was compelled several times to give my reasons for endorsing Victoria's cause; I generally succeed admirably by merely handing to my inquirers a copy of the "Principles of Social Freedom" or a number of the "Weekly," and I was certain that justice would be done".


The first of the items that Andriessen handed out was the text of a speech given by Mrs. Woodhull in 1871 and the second, "Woodhull & Clafin's Weekly" was a journal published in New York espousing all of Mrs. Woodhull's causes, and is best known for printing the first English version of Karl Marx's "Communist Manifesto". Certainly radical thoughts for his time, and certainly controversial in the small mostly Methodist Beaver of his day. Yet in spite of his politics, the pharmacy continued to grow.

As his pharmacy grew and thrived, there were still problems to be overcome as cheaper and impure substitutes for his products began to show up in local markets and have a negative effect on sales. Described as a political radical and socialist, he fought against these poorer substitutes and even sent a letter to Congress complaining about the government allowing their sale and use and urging them to pass a national pure-food law. In an 1894 "Report on the Character and Extent of Food and Drug Adulteration", he was quoted as saying:

"My next door corner grocery store neighbor sells his "pure powdered spices", put up in attractive packages, cheaper than I can purchase the whole spices at lowest wholesale rates. He can afford to sell "pure vanilla extract" in large handsome bottles, artistically labeled, at 10 cents a bottle, while I leaving the Tonca bean out, have to charge 25 cents, and let the trade go to the dishonest dealers. These few illustrations, I believe, suffice. It is the same with butter (oleomargarine), pure whiskey (blended, compound-flavored spirits), wines, and even tinctures, extracts, and other articles of the United States Pharmacopoeia."

Of course, we all know who won this battle as these are things that we still find on our store shelves today.

A self-proclaimed agnostic, political radical, pharmacist and poet, Mr.Hugo Andriessen was a contributor to several scientific and philosophical journals as well as many German literary publications. Also, Andriessen had a book of poetry, written in German, called "Poetische Auslese", published shortly after his death in 1908 by his eldest daughter, Belle. Included in the book are his poetry, some translations from American and English poets, poems on the Civil War, and a variety of poems on philosophy and Hinduism. Although rare, copies can still be purchased through antique booksellers today. In addition to his other interests, he was also a member of the Beaver Chess Club, The American Pharmaceutical Association and the Western Pennsylvania Botanical Society.

Near the end of his life, Andriessen sold the pharmacy to Edwin Rowse in 1906. Around the same time, his natural history collection was sold to Richard Hartje of Pittsburgh, and over the course of several years following his father's death, Hartje's son donated the Andriessen natural history and botanical collection to the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh in his father's memory. A man of many talents and ideals, Hugo Andriessen passed away at the age of 65 on April 21, 1908 and was buried in the Beaver Cemetery in his adopted hometown of Beaver, Pennsylvania. Today, the location of his famous Beaver Drugstore is occupied by "Photography by James".


"A Speech on the Principles of Social Freedom", by Victoria C. Woodhull, New York: Woodhull, Clafin & Co., 1872

"History of Beaver County, Pennsylvania 1888", Philadelphia and Chicago: A. Warner & Co. 1888.

"Milo Adams Townsend and Social Movements of the Nineteenth Century", ed. by Peggy Townsend and Charles W. Townsend III, 1994.

"Poetische Auslese", by Hugo Andriessen, ed. Belle Andriessen, Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Printing Co. 1908.

"U.S. Department of Agriculture: Report on the Extent and Character of Food and Drug Adulteration", by Alex J. Wedderburn, Special Agent, Washington:Government Print office, 1894.

"1918-1919 The Carnegie Institute Annual Reports", Pittsburgh, PA, 1919, pg. 192.

*Photographs and related information courtesy of the Beaver Area Heritage Museum

*Special thanks to Robert Smith of the BAHM for the additional information on Rudyard Kipling's visits to Beaver Drugstore

*German translations courtesy of Dorothy Witke.