Find it at the Pharmacy Museum
You never know what you might find at the Pharmacy and Medical Museum of Texas. The one thing it’s not, however, is dusty or boring. While its caretakers describe it as a step back in time, this original 1800s pharmacy building in downtown Cuero is a treasure chest that any generation can appreciate. It’s crammed with surprising artifacts that show just about everything that was once sold in early Texas drugstores.
Take chopper hoppers, for example. These comical, ceramic vessels for keeping false teeth safe beat today’s plastic containers. Or, how about razor blade banks that are so pretty it’s hard to imagine they were made to toss into the garbage once they were full. And, don’t be surprised if one of the docents offers your kids a chance to write something on the “BETA” version of today’s electronic tablet—a writing slate that is truly “old school.”
You’ll also see all shapes and sizes of glass pharmacy bottles, an original compounding bench, medicinal cigarettes once sold to cure coughs, a leech jar, and three old-fashioned soda machines from different drugstore eras. What’s surprising is all of the other items you probably didn’t know drugstores sold like a hand-cranked Edison phonograph that still works and school supplies like quill and ink pens.
The museum, which is housed in an 1800s building that was never anything but a drugstore for the past 128 years, was the idea of fourth-generation pharmacist Joe Reuss, and his wife, Wanda. They wanted to create an educational museum focused on the pharmacological and medical fields, while preserving a piece of Cuero’s early Texas heritage.
The easy part was assembling the collection. Reuss not only owned the pharmacy building, but many of the items that are in it. After all, Reuss says he comes from a family who never threw anything away. The other items were acquired from old pharmacies that were closed or sold. And, still more have come from donors.
Aside from these artifacts, another piece of history hangs on the wall: a life-size painting recreated from an 1800s photo taken during the yellow fever epidemic. It shows patients lined up to see Reuss’ great-great-great grandfather, Dr. J.M. Reuss, who opened his medical practice and first pharmacy in Indianola, Texas, in 1845. After the powerful hurricane of 1875, he moved his pharmacy to Cuero where now, 172 years later, the Reuss Pharmacy still stands as the oldest, continuously operating drugstore in Texas.
A Big Step
Although the museum was lovingly developed and maintained by volunteers, it took on a new dimension under the care of Wayne Adickes. He’s not only Reuss’ next door neighbor, but also a history buff and collector himself. Just as important, Adickes sits on the board of the Cuero Heritage Museum.
“I think Joe began to recognize, as with many projects like these, that it was going to be difficult to sustain this as a museum. So he approached me one day, and as chairman of the Cuero Heritage Museum, I was able to give him a pro forma of how we might be able to run both of the museums together under the operation of the City,” says Adickes.
“Ownership of the museum was transferred and in 2013 it became a branch of the Heritage Museum. We think Cuero is one of the few cities in the state of Texas that would take on a project like this, and we feel extremely fortunate.”
The next step, says Reuss and Adickes, is to raise funds to restore the second floor. They’d like to re-create an early medical doctor’s office along with a dentist office and veterinary office.
To learn more about this fun and funky museum, go to www.pharmacyandmedicalmuseum.org. Or better yet, visit the museum at 114 E. Main Street. It’s open Monday through Saturday and best of all, admission is free.