Hook’s Drugstore Museum: Even Pharmacies Enjoyed Their “Good Old Days”
By Mary Giorgio
Step into Hook’s Drugstore Museum and you are stepping back into time…
Outside, sits the 21st century. Inside, museum guests are fully immersed in the 19th century. Hook’s Drugstore Museum tells the fascinating story of the development of the modern American drugstore.
Located on the grounds of the Indiana State Fairgrounds, Hook’s Drugstore Museum opened in 1966. It was established by Hook’s Pharmacy as part of the state’s sesquicentennial celebrations. State officials had asked Indiana corporations to make contributions to the festivities.
Hook’s executives approached the State Fairgrounds looking for a building that could serve as a temporary museum. They planned for the museum to be open for 3 months. The Better Babies Building was ultimately chosen because it was the correct size for a 19th-century pharmacy. The Better Babies Building had formerly been used during the State Fair to judge infants on their levels of cognitive development.
Executives of Hook’s likely chose to interpret a pharmacy circa the 1890s because that era coincided with the company’s founding. The first Hook’s pharmacy opened in 1900 when John A. Hook established the Deutsche Apotheke (aka, German Apothecary) in southeast Indianapolis. The store’s name was later changed to Hook’s Pharmacy.
Hook opened a second pharmacy downtown in 1908. That same year, he took on a business partner named Edward Roesch. Together, the two men opened pharmacies across Indiana; by 1912, the chain had 12 locations.
When John died in 1943, Edward took over as Hook’s president. He continued to expand the chain. In 1950, when the store celebrated its 50th anniversary, there were 50 Hook’s locations in Indiana.
After Rosche died in 1956, John’s son Bud Hook took over the business’s operations. Under Bud’s extensive expansion plans, Hook’s Pharmacy became one of the biggest regional pharmacy chains in the US.
That brings us back to 1966 when Hook’s executive staff made plans for their museum. Executives wanted the museum to be authentic. To this end, employees searched all over the Midwest to acquire period artifacts. They procured authentic 19th-century pharmacy cabinets from a store in Cambridge City.
Original advertising panels were hung inside the museum. The museum sold period candies, toys, and gifts. Modern over the counter medicines and first aid items rounded out the offerings.
The museum was so popular that Hook’s approached the State Fairgrounds with a plan to turn the museum into a permanent fixture. Officials were happy to oblige. The museum continued to open daily for the next 34 years.
In 1971, Hook’s Drugstore Museum added an authentic ice cream soda fountain. To this day, the fountain continues to be one of the most popular attractions.
Hook’s Pharmacy was acquired by Kroger in a friendly buyout in 1985. As part of the deal, Hook’s Pharmacies retained their name and Kroger allowed Hook’s to continue to operate their museum. In 1994, Kroger sold Hook’s Pharmacy to Revco Drug. At that time, the museum was donated to the Hook’s Drug Foundation. Revco was acquired by CVS a year later.
Hook’s Drugstore Museum ceased daily operations in 2000. Today, the museum is operated by the Greenfield Museum Initiative and is open annually during the Indiana State Fair, for private events, group tours by appointment, and field trips. Annual attendance tops 50,000 visitors.
Since it first opened in 1966, Hook’s Drugstore Museum has hosted over 3 million visitors. It houses the biggest collection of drugstore artifacts in the United States. The museum continues to offer guests an authentic peek into the early history of American pharmacies.