When James McCord was just a student living in Pennsylvania, it was difficult to imagine that one day he would wind up being president of one of the largest wholesale druggists in La Crosse.
When he was just 17, and after graduating from the Iron City Commercial College at Pittsburgh, he moved to Sparta, where he taught school during the day and at night and in the mornings kept books. In the the fall of 1858, he secured a job as a full-time bookkeeper for a bank in Milwaukee for several years.
It was this bookkeeper position that would grant him access to the wholesale drug business. In December 1864, McCord moved to La Crosse — and along with J.H. McCulloch and John Rice of Milwaukee — formed the firm of McCulloch, McCord & Co., which would go on to purchase the wholesale drug business of Uriah Parry Jr.
This business was located on North Front Street between State and Main streets, where the 4 Sisters Wine Bar is today. In the years after this purchase, both McCulloch and Rice would withdraw their interests, leaving the business solely to McCord in 1882, and at which time he was made the company’s president.
The business, however, did not stay solely McCord’s for very long. In January 1905, just six weeks after McCord’s death, the company merged with the only other wholesale druggist in La Crosse, T.H. Spence Drug Co., which was founded in 1874. This merger was approved by both T.H. Spence and his son E.W. Spence, as well as A.C. McCord, James McCord’s son.
Although A.C. McCord would resign from his position within the new company as elected secretary after just four months, the newly formed Spence-McCord Drug Company would be around until the early 1970s.
This division in time periods is important to note in regards to this week’s artifact, a shipping crate from James McCord Wholesale Druggist of La Crosse. Due to the name on the crate, we know that it had to have been produced sometime between 1882 and early 1905, although it was likely reused several times based on the wear on the crate.
This shipping crate was donated to the La Crosse Historical Society by George Schultz in 2016 and is an excellent addition to our medical collection here. Although the crate does show slight wear and tear, one interesting thing about the crate is that the original leather hinges are still intact. These were used to attach lid to the rest of the crate so it could not be misplaced, and thus the crate could be returned and reused.
This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune.