W. G. Geety, Inc. Apothecary, Broadway and 138th St., New York

 

Wallace Gillespie Geety was a long time New York City pharmacist and chemist who operated drug stores in Upper Manhattan for well over 60 years.

Born in 1873, sometime in his teens he started his career, not in New York, but as a drug clerk in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In 1892, a story in the August 25th edition of the “Harrisburg Daily Independent” announced that he was leaving Harrisburg to attend the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.

Wallace Geety, of Forney & Knouse’s drug store, will leave for Philadelphia tomorrow to attend the college of pharmacy in the Quaker City.

Graduating in 1894, according to the May edition of “The American Journal of Pharmacy” the subject of his graduate thesis was “Mistura Glycyrrhizae Composita.”

“King’s American Dispensatory,” published in 1908, described  Mistura Glycyrrhizae Composita as a “compound licorice mixture” that included among other things powdered extract of licorice, powdered gum arabic, camphorated tincture of opium and tincture of bloodroot. “King’s American Dispensatory” went on to say that it

forms an excellent cough mixture, and may be used in catarrhal affections after the subsidence  of the more active symptoms, and when expectoration is present.

Whether Geety simply studied the preparation or actually cococted it during his college years is unclear.

All that aside, after graduation Geety relocated to New York City where Volume 31 of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy’s Alumni Report (1894-1895) announced:

Wallace G. Geety, “94” is now with F. K. James, 700 Eighth Avenue, New York City.

As late as 1897, the New York City directories listed him as a clerk, suggesting he was still employed at James’ pharmacy at that point. Shortly after however he apparently left James to start his own drug store, and the following year, in 1898, he was initially listed as a druggist with an address of 2090 Eighth Avenue, at the corner of 113th Street.

Geety remained in business on Eighth Avenue until 1910 when the March 28th edition of “The American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record” announced that he had sold the drug store to his previous employer, F. K. James.

The F. K. James Company has succeeded to the business of the store at 113th Street and Eighth Avenue, hitherto conducted by W. G. Geety.

Not long afterwards, Geety formed W. G .Geety, Inc. and opened a store at 3399 Broadway, on the corner of 138th Street. The incorporation notice was published under the heading “New Corporations,” in the October 12, 1912 edition of a publication called “N.A.R.D. (National Association of Retail Druggists) Notes.”

W. G. Geety, Inc., Manhattan, N.Y., $25,000.

As early as 1914 (I don’t have access to 1913) the company was listed in New York City’s Copartnership and Corporation Directory with Wallace G. Geety named as president, and Charles M. Lalor and Edward A. Kelly, named as vice president and secretary respectively. Not simply a retail druggist, Geety also patented at least one new medication, as evidenced by this 1915 patent application for an “Alkaline Antiseptic and Non-Toxic Prophylactic Preparation.’

Sometime in the early 1920’s W. G. Getty, Inc. began listing what was likely a second drug store, at 4181 Broadway. Both locations continued to be listed in the Manhattan telephone book up through 1946 after which  the 3399 Broadway location was dropped. The location at 4181 Broadway continued to be listed up through at least 1960 and possibly longer.

The bottle I found is a small medicine, 5-1/4 inches tall, that exhibits the Broadway and 138th Street location (3399 Broadway). Mouth blown it almost certainly dates to the first few years of the 1912 to 1946 time period that Getty operated a drug store at that address.

Today 3399 Broadway (600 West 138th St) is a 6-story residential building with a commercial store at street level.

According to streeteasy.com it was built in 1908, approximately four years before Geety opened his drug store there. As a result, the current street level store shown almost certainly housed Geety’s pharmacy at one time. In fact the bottle likely passed through the front door 100+ years ago.