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Gillespie Drug Store Collection

Identifier: RH-A-4061

Scope and Contents

Narcotic reports and inventories for the Gillespie's Drug Stores in St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, Michigan from 1963 to 1976. Also includes controlled substances order forms, treasury department circulars, yearly narcotic inventories, miscellaneous inventory records, and wholesale dealers inventories.


  • Record Keeping: January 1963- August 1973


Biographical / Historical

Frank Gillespie founded Gillespie’s Drug Store in 1905 by his purchase of the run-down “Howard & Pearl Drug Store” at 220 State Street in downtown St. Joseph, which a succession of druggists had run a pharmacy out of since 1866. The first being E.N.C. Palmer, who sold to Higman & Co. in 1872, becoming Wilson & Howard in 1886. Joseph Pearl, part owner of the Howard & Pearl, bought out his partner in 1891. Pearl went down with the ill-fated steamer Chicora in 1895, but his name remained on the business until Gillespie bought it. The first ten years it was “Gillespie and Reiber Drug Store” until Frank bought out his partner, John Reiber in 1915. Frank came to St. Joe from Lowell, Michigan. The wholesale drug firm of Hazeltine & Perkins, (Grand Rapids) gave Gillespie a line of credit and supply of drugs to start out. The business opened just before the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 sweeping patent medicines and quack cure-alls out the door and ushered in an era of safe pharmaceuticals. He also stopped selling liquor for recreational and medicinal use. The city alderman met every Monday night and would retire to the back of the drug store to indulge in a post-meeting drink. Gillespie stopped this on his first Monday in business. This soda fountain was a local favorite, operating from 1869-1957, when Gillespie removed it to expand the pharmacy and camera departments. He eventually had three stores in Benton Harbor, and one on Niles Avenue. When they closed, Gillespie reverted to the original State Street store.

At one time, all six of Frank’s children worked at the downtown location. Four of his six children became pharmacists. Son’s Collins, Robert, Richard and William Gillespie were all registered pharmacists- graduating from Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science. Collins in 1931, Robert in 1941, William in 1950, and Richard in 1956- continuing to operate the original store until 1986, when they sold it to Ronald Beck (Buchanan’s “Wisner-Beck Drug Store”), who closed in 1992. Frank died in 1955. Collins retired in 1986

Son Richard later owned Richard Gillespie Pharmacy (2020 Washington Ave, St. Joseph) opening in 1960, later taken over by Richard’s daughters upon his retirement in 1991, Amy and Kelly Gillespie are continuing on the 3rd generation of Gillespies in the pharmacy business- still operating today. Gillespies Pharmacy has been in continuous business since 1905, celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2005.


1.5 Cubic Feet (Three Boxes)

Language of Materials


Physical Description

The collection measures 1.5 cubic feet, consisting of two legal-size hollingers and one letter-size hollinger. Included in the collection are monthly narcotic reports spanning eight years, controlled substances order forms, treasury department circulars and mimeographs, yearly narcotic inventories, miscellaneous inventory records, and wholesale dealers inventory. The collection is comprised of variety of paper-based materials, including pamphlets, booklets, carbon copies, legal-size forms, and receipts, and are all in good condition. Documents are legible with minor staining, creases, warping, and puncture marks from staples and paper clips. Heavy water damage is evident on one monthly narcotic report.

Gillespie Drug Store Collection Finding Aid
Suzanne Grimmer
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Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections Repository

Charles C. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490