Mortar, Pestle, and Beaker Signs (page 1)

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The photos in this section were moved here from my Signs section to accompany an article which I wrote for the (Society for Commercial Archeology) Journal magazine. This section and article provide information about and examples of vintage drug store signs with depictions of mortars, pestles, and beakers.

As with most of these "companion" sections, the pages are organized alphabetically by state.

Discount Pharmacy
Cullman, AL
Southern Pharmacy
of Leachville
Leachville, AR
Town Center
Visalia, CA

Wilson Drug
Company [gone]
Bartow, FL
Pharmacy [gone]
Collinsville, IL
Webb's Pharmacy
Yazoo City, MS
Signal Mountain Pharmacy
Signal Mountain, TN

These vacuum-formed, backlit plastic signs were mass-produced and distributed nation-wide in the 1960s. They were designed to revolve and came with a motor box. I don't know what company made them or if there were any made in the 1950s or 1970s.

The Hospital Discount Pharmacy opened in 1968 and this sign must be from then. [map]

The Southern Pharmacy of Leachville sign repainted in 2017 when Leachville Discount Drug became the Southern Pharmacy of Leachville. The sign was previously white with blue lettering. [map]

The Town Center Pharmacy opened in 1964 and, most likely, this sign was installed then. The sign is still lit at night, but it has not spun since the early 2000s. The original paint remains but the "Free Delivery" at the bottom has been covered with decals. [map]

The Wilson Drug Company sign was removed around 2021.

The Ashmann's Pharmacy had closed by 2017. By 2018, the sign was gone. For more, see this website.

Webb's Pharmacy has been operating since 1886. [map]

The Signal Mountain Pharmacy is still operating. I don't know when it first opened. [map]

More Vacuum Form Mortar and Pestle Signs:
Rothrock Drug (Blytheville, AR) [map]
former pharmacy (Artesia, CA) [map]
Lallier Pharmacy (Salida, CO) [gone]
Rex Pharmacy (Atlantic, IA) [gone]
Carson Drug (Custer, SD) [map]
Raabe's Pharmacy (New Lisbon, WI)

Blountsville Pharmacy
Blountsville, AL
The Blountsville Pharmacy opened in 1958 and this sign is probably from then. [map]

More Alabama:
Physicians Apothecary (Gadsden) [map]
Parker Drugs (Leeds)
Prescription Shop (Sheffield) [gone]

Coleman Pharmacy
Alma, AR
Laws Drug Store
Fort Smith, AR
Tedford Grocery
Little Rock, AR
The Coleman Pharmacy opened in 1973 and this sign is believed to be from then. The pestle was originally animated, and the sign may have revolved. Although the sign is no longer lit, the original readerboard below is still used to spell out different messages. [map]

Laws Drug Store was founded in 1948. This sign might be from then. The neon pestle was probably animated. Apparently, the store moved to this mall location and brought this sign with them. The sign is displayed in the parking lot next to the store. [map]

The Tedford Grocery building has been vacant since at least 2007. It previously housed Tedford Drugs. The lower sign panel is fairly translucent and reveals the word "DRUGS" underneath. The box under the sign appears to have been for a motor which indicates that the sign revolved. The sign is probably from the 1960s. [map]

Buice Drug Store
Little Rock, AR
2010: 2021:
The Buice Drug Store was opened by James Worley ("J.W.") Buice in 1929. George Wimberly began running the store when Buice died in the 1960s. The store closed permanently in 2012 when Wimberly passed away. The building now houses a real estate office. This painted sign which was probably built in the 1950s remains. In 2018, the building's current owner got an estimate of $10,000 to replicate the sign and passed on it. When functional, the sign featured chasing bulbs descending from the beaker. The pestle moved back and forth inside the mortar in four-part animation. [map]

Argenta Drug Co.
North Little Rock, AR
The Argenta Drug Co. opened here in 1887, making it one of the oldest pharmacies in the country. These signs might be from the late 1940s or 1950s. North Little Rock was once known as Argenta. [map]

Hudson Pharmacy
Van Buren, AR
Uptown Drug
Kingman, AZ
The Hudson Pharmacy was established in 1947. This sign might be from the 1950s. The neon pestle was designed to move back and forth. [map]

Uptown Drug was established in 1963. This sign might be from then. [map]

Stier's Pharmacy
Alameda, CA
Willow Creek Pharmacy
Willow Creek, CA
The Stier Drug Company was operating a store in Oakland by 1935. In 1956, the Schaefer's Pharmacy in Alameda was sold and became Stier's Pharmacy. This porcelain enamel sign was installed then. It is about six feet tall. Presumably, the two stores were related with a different family member taking over the store in Alameda. Around 1964, the store moved down the block and brought the sign along. It is believed that the store closed in the mid-1990s, and the sign went dark. The Califia Taqueria has occupied the space since 2003.

In 2011, the Alameda Historical Advisory Board designated nearly 20 local signs as historic. The City then embarked on restoring the signs with a state grant. Jim Rizzo of Neon Works in Oakland worked on about five of the signs. He spent more than five weeks restoring the Stier's sign. It required a new sign pole and mounting, as well as all new wiring, components, and neon for about $10,500. There was a relighting ceremony and the sign shone again with white neon. However, the sign is only about half-lit at this point. [map]

The Willow Creek Pharmacy sign appears to be from the 1950s. [map]

Victory Drugs [gone]
Bellflower, CA
2012: 2014:
Victory Drugs opened in 1946 and the twin signs were probably installed on the building then. In 2014, the name of the store had been changed to Victory Home Medical Supplies. The neon was removed and the signs were repainted and reworded. The building was demolished around 2019 and the signs were gone.

Corner Drug Co.
Woodland, CA
The Corner Drug Co. store opened as Pond's Drug Store in 1897. In 1934, the name was changed to Corner Drug. The store was part of the Walgreen Agency chain. The Corner Drug sign panels were installed in 1948. I don't know if the "Drugs" sign and the mortar and pestle signs built by Federal Sign were there before that. When the store became part of the Valu Rite chain, the "Walgreen" text was covered up with small Valu Rite panels. The signs were restored in 2013. For more, see this website. [map]

Balboa Pharmacy
Newport Beach, CA
2013: 2019:
The Balboa Pharmacy sign is believed to have been built around 1950 for Gunderson Drug. The name at the top of the sign was painted over many decades ago. The sign was repainted in 2009. In 2017, the sign was becoming precarious and with a nudge from the City, it was cut down between windstorms. A replica was built and installed in 2018. For more, see this website. [map]

Kovac's Care Pharmacy
Los Angeles, CA
Kovac's Care Pharmacy was established in 1954 and these signs appear to be from then. The tiles were installed sometime after 1964. [map]

Gen-Rx Pharmacy
Lake Elsinore, CA
The Gen-Rx Pharmacy building was built around 2014. The mortar and pestle on the roof was controversial and nearly not approved by the planning commission. The owners agreed to remove it if they ever leave the building. [map]

More California:
Safeway Pharmacy: 1, 2 (Albany) [gone]
Ferry's Pharmacy (Anderson) [gone]
College Pharmacy (Fresno)
Central Avenue Pharmacy (Glendale)
Prescription Pharmacy (Los Angeles)
High Street Pharmacy (Oakland)
Rivera Drugs (Pico Rivera)
Ocean Beach Pharmacy (San Diego) [gone]
10th Street Pharmacy (San Jose)

Mortar, Pestle, & Beaker Signs
page 2
Mortar, Pestle, & Beaker Signs
page 3
Main SCA Article
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