Frank Parker was a pharmacist by trade who lived on New York’s Long Island in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. During this time he operated retail drug stores in Islip Village (1880 to 1884), Babylon (1884 to 1887), East Islip (1893 to 1897) and Central Islip (1906 to 1913). He also held several political positions in Islip including Town Supervisor from 1898 to 1902..
Born in 1850, census records indicate that Parker immigrated to the United States from England in 1869. His portrait appeared in the March 21, 1908 edition of the “South Side Signal.”
Parker began his pharmacy career not on Long Island, but in Brooklyn, New York where he was first listed in Brooklyn’s 1872/1873 Directory with the occupation “drugs.” Then, sometime in 1877 or 1878 he established his own drug store at 244 Broadway (corner of 8th Street) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The capital needed to support the business during these early days was provided by a man named Francis Fenelon Murray. Their limited partnership agreement naming Parker as “General Partner” and Murray as “Special Partner” was published in several September and October, 1878 editions of Brooklyn’s “Times Union.”
Among other things the agreement stated:
The amount of capital which the said FRANCIS FENELON MURRAY, as such special partner, has contributed to the common stock of said partnership, is the sum of one thousand dollars in cash.
The agreement associated the business with a Brooklyn address of 118 Wythe Avenue. That being said, the business was never listed with that address in the Brooklyn directories and, as far as I can tell, never operated from that location. Instead it continued to operate at the 244 Broadway location.
More than just a druggist, at least by today’s standards, this December 9, 1878 advertisement in the Brooklyn “Times Union” made it clear that Parker’s inventory included a product called “Dr. Underhill’s Original Pure Wines” produced in Westchester, New York’s Croton Point Vineyard.
It was sometime in 1880 that Parker picked up and moved his home and business from Brooklyn to Islip. That year the 1880/1881 Brooklyn directory continued to list his drug business at 244 Broadway however, it now listed his residence as “Islip, N.Y.” The following year neither his residence or business were mentioned in the Brooklyn directories.
That same year, a June 19, 1880 story in Amityville N. Y.’s local newspaper, the “South Side Signal,” made it clear that by then his drug business was up and running in Islip. The story appeared under the heading “Islip Village.”
Excitement runs high over the liquor license granted to Mr. Parker, the new druggist. Mr. Parker says, however, that he only intends to sell spirits as medicine. He claims to be alive to the fact that any other course would be suicidal to himself as a responsible druggist. He is not a believer in a tippler’s drug store, so he says. “We shall see what we shall see.” One thing is certain, if the place is kept as a liquor saloon, three fourths of the people here will move on him sharp, short and decisive. For our own part, we say let Mr. Parker have fair play. A drug store should sell spirits medicinally, and we have no good reason yet to believe that this one will do otherwise.
A story that ran almost three years later in the February 3, 1883 edition of the “South Side Signal” clearly demonstrated that he was still running his Islip business at that time so he apparently didn’t ruffle any feathers with alcohol sales. The story also provided some evidence of Parker’s marketing talents.
Mr Wilson is painting Hygeia, the goddess of health, on the side wall of Parker’s drug store. The painting is attracting considerable attention.
In March, 1884 Parker was one of three individuals from Islip that registered a trademark for a patent medicine with the name “Bait.” U. S. Patent Office records described it as “a perfume for the breath.”
It’s possible that Parker manufactured “Bait” as part of his retail drug business however, the fact that I can’t find any local advertisements touting it indicates that any manufacturing was likely small in scale and short term, if at all.
In 1884 Parker moved west to Babylon N. Y. and opened a drug store there. An announcement to that effect appeared in the May 1, 1884 edition of the “South Side Signal.”
Another drug store on Deer Park Avenue is an assured fact. Frank Parker, lately located at Islip, assures us that he expects to build on his recent purchase and begin business without delay. “The more the merrier.”
True to his word, less than three months later the July 19th edition of the “South Side Signal” announced that construction was underway.
The contract for building the new drug store, on Deer Park Avenue, for Mr. Frank Parker, of Islip, has been awarded to Samuel M. Kellum. The building will be two stories in height and 20×40 feet in size. Ground has been broken.
Parker remained on Deer Park Avenue in Babylon for a little less than three years during which time he continued to exhibit a talent for drawing people to his store. One such example appeared in the June 12, 1886 edition of the “South Side Signal.”
The store of Frank Parker, on Deer Park Avenue, was crowded on Monday evening, with people who gathered to watch the unfolding of a night-blooming cereus. The beautiful flower began to unfold soon after 6 P.M. and continued to do so until about 9 o’clock when it was at its height of beauty. After that hour it would have gradually closed its petals, but Mr. Parker removed it from the plant, and placed it in alcohol thus preserving it in its full beauty. Mr. Parker who is an enthusiastic and successful florist, had for five years watched the growth and development of this plant, which had never blossomed until this week. His courtesy in permitting the public witness the unfolding of this beautiful flower was greatly appreciated by all present.
Ultimately Parker sold the Babylon drug business in 1887. The sale was reported in the April 9, 1887 edition of the “Suffolk Weekly Times.”
Frank Parker has sold his drug business at Babylon to Lester A. Wyatt of Islip.
After the sale of his business Parker remained in Babylon but his story goes cold, with very little mention of him for several years. It picks up again in 1893 when the March 11th edition of the “South Side Signal” ran this story under the heading “East Islip:”
Frank Parker, of Babylon, who some years ago was engaged in the drug business in Islip Village is about to embark in business in East Islip – or is at least reported to have leased the store of Thomas Walters for that purpose. He is desirous of being appointed Postmaster, and a petition is being circulated in his behalf.
Less than a year later the February 24, 1894 edition of the “South Side Signal” announced that Parker had been appointed to the postmaster position. It appears from the story that the appointment created quite a stir at the time.
The appointment of Druggist Frank Parker to be postmaster here (East Islip) was like a bolt of lightning from a clear sky to the unterrified Democracy of East Islip. To say the least it was unexpected. William H. Brady had received the unanimous endorsement of the County Committee and was the choice of a large portion of the Democracy of the village. There were a few of the followers of the ruling party who strenuously objected to Brady’s appointment, but as no third candidate was advanced it was thought by all that the latter would be appointed, or that Postmaster Frazer would hold over. Mr. Parker had never voted in the district until last fall, having been a resident of this vicinity about nine months…The giving of this office to a comparatively stranger and the “turning down” of a young man who was born and brought up here, and who has also been a worker for his party, and who in addition had the sanction of the County Committee is certainly strange politics.
For three years, Parker ran the post office while continuing to operate his East Islip drug business, both of which were apparently quartered in the space he originally rented from Thomas Walters. This all changed in 1897 when a June 26th story in the “South Side Signal” announced that he had just sold the drug business..
The drug business formerly conducted by Postmaster Frank Parker has been sold by the latter to Robert Topping, who will remove the same to the store of his brother, David H. Topping. An addition is now being built on the rear of the store to be used exclusively for the pharmacy. Mr. Topping has been in the latter business in the past and will no doubt do well here. Mr. Parker removed the post office on Thursday from the Walters Building to the store of David H. Topping, where he will remain during the balance of Postmaster Parker’s term.
Parker remained in East Islip for another seven years during which time he not only served out his term as postmaster, but three terms as supervisor and one as town clerk. He also ran for Assembly on two occasions but lost both times.
His only connection with the drug business during this time was filling in for drug store owners who were either ill or out of town. One such occasion, when he filled in for druggist Frank W. Race, was documented in the October 26, 1901 edition of the “South Side Signal,” under the heading “Islip.” Coincidentlly, Race’s pharmacy was at the same Islip location as Parker’s original Long Island drug store.
In the absence of Druggist Frank W. Race during the past week, Supervisor Parker has been compounding prescriptions at the latter’s pharmacy.
In 1905 Parker moved again, this time back to Central Islip where he ultimately bought Race’s drug business. The story begins with an October 14, 1905 story in the “South Side Signal.”
Former Town Clerk Frank Parker has decided to embark in the drug trade at Central Islip and will shortly open a store in the vicinity of the depot. We trust he may be successful in this venture.
The following spring this item appeared in the March 3, 1906 edition of the South Side Signal. It appears to have been written at the time he officially opened for business.
Frank Parker has purchased the pharmacy business formerly conducted by Frank W. Race and will hereafter conduct the same. The location is a good one and Mr. Parker will doubtless build up a profitable trade. It will be remembered that he conducted the same business at the same stand some twenty years ago.
An item published three months prior, in the November 14, 1905 edition of the “South Side Signal,” suggested that he built a new store at that location prior to his March, 1906 opening.
Boss Wright has the contract for the erection of the new drug store and residence of Frank Parker at Central Islip. The building will be 18×35 feet in size.
This undated post card, captioned “Parker Pharmacy, Central Islip,” fits the description.
Census records from 1910 indicate that Parker was still operating the drug store at that time.
Ultimately, Parker sold the Central Islip drug store in 1913 as evidenced by this item that appeared in the December 3, 1913 edition of a publication called the “Paint, Oil and Drug Review.”
Islip, N. Y. – John H. Allen of Central Valley, N. Y., bought the drug business of Frank Parker and will move his family here.
In 1916, the “ERA Drugggists’ Directory” named Harrison M. Jones as the proprietor so apparently it changed hands again shortly after.
On a personal note, according to an item published in the March 21, 1908 edition of the “South Side Signal,” Parker was twice widowed and about to be married for the third time.
Babylon friends of ex-supervisor Frank Parker of Islip will be interested in the announcement of his engagement to Miss Clara Woodworth of that place…Mr. Parker has been married twice previously. His first wife passed away while the couple were residents of Babylon, and his second wife, while they were making their home in East Islip.
1920 census records indicate that by then, Parker, along with his third wife Clara, had left Long Island and were living in Oakland, California.
The subject bottle is roughly eight ounces in size with a tooled crown finish. It’s embossed with the East Islip location dating it between 1893 and 1897. Recognizing that the crown finish wasn’t patented until 1892 and likely took several years to gain popularity it’s likely that the bottle dates more toward the 1897 date. The bottle is shaped exactly like a mineral water bottle, suggesting that Parker bottled and sold mineral water as part of his East Islip business.