Hook's Drug Store

Hook's Drug Stores were Indiana fixtures throughout most of the 20th century. Founder John A. Hook opened his first Indianapolis store in 1900 in a now-demolished building at 1101 S. East Street in what is now the Fountain Square neighborhood. Strides made in medicine in the early 1900s promoted the new scientific approach to health and medicine and encouraged the establishment of new pharmacies throughout the city. The eight Hook's Drug Stores in 1914 became fifty stores by the 1950s. In the 1990s, the Hook's Drug Store name was retired after takeovers and consolidations; many of its original locations survive as CVS stores. The legacy of Hook's Drug Stores continues with this museum.

Drug Store Museum, 1966 Through the Present

Hook's Drug Store Museum began as a three-month exhibition for the 1966 Indiana State Fair. Huge attendance at that fair created strong interest in a permanent installation. The museum re-creates the look and ambiance of an Indiana drugstore around the turn of the 20th century, with its mixture of antiques from the late 1800s and early 1900s: a soda fountain, cabinets, fixtures, furniture, and artifacts. It is also still a limited-scale functioning drugstore, selling some over-the-counter remedies and old-style candies and merchandise during its regular operations during the annual state fair and at various other times throughout the year.

The Building's Original Purpose for Better Babies Contests, 1927-1932

The museum is housed in a bungalow-style house originally constructed on the fairgrounds. This building was selected, in part, because its original footprint (the rooms that now contain the soda fountain and the store) is about the same size as John Hook's original drugstore. This building, constructed in 1927 with a $5,000 special state government appropriation, housed the heavily-attended Better Babies Contests, during which physicians and psychologists weighed, measured, and tested mental abilities of infant contestants with the goal of identifying Indiana's most perfect babies.

Held annually during state fairs from 1920 to 1932, Better Babies Contests initially were a part of efforts to reduce infant mortality by providing information and exhibits about infant health. However, these contests were also influenced by the worldwide eugenics social movement of the late 1800s to the mid-1930s. Eugenics was promoted by many scientists at that time as a cure to “defects” in health and social behavior. The policies of eugenics were tied to both white supremacy and the holocaust. In the United States, the eugenics movement focused on efforts to “improve” the white population by fostering marriages of "fit" men and women so that they could undertake the "healthful rearing of their children." Proponents of this movement also sought to prevent conception of babies by "the unfit": criminals, "the insane," epileptics, individuals with physical disabilities, and "the feebleminded" (people with intellectual disabilities).

Better Babies Contest ratings were initially based on child development milestones but, in an effort to standardize ratings, organizers created scorecards mimicking those for judging livestock. Governor Samuel M. Ralston declared at a 1915 awards ceremony, "I've been to cattle shows and stock shows . . . I want Indiana to pay as much attention to the blood of the children it raises as the farmer pays to the blood of the future pigs." After the last Better Babies Contest in 1932, the Indiana State Fair used this building for a variety of purposes until remodeling and repurposing it in 1966 as the Hook's Drug Store Museum.

Images

Hook's Drug Store

Hook's Drug Store

Source: Courtesy of Indiana DNR View File Details Page

Soda Fountain

Soda Fountain

The restored pink "Lippincott" soda fountain dates from about 1877. The soda fountain's back bar is from Sunman, Indiana. | Creator: Kurt Lee Nettleton View File Details Page

An Early Hook's

An Early Hook's

Photo courtesy of Hook's Drug Store Museum. View File Details Page

Pharmacist's Area

Pharmacist's Area

Of special interest is the booth-like area at the rear of the soda fountain room, which showcases how a pharmacist would have produced most of the medicines sold in the drugstore around the turn of the twentieth century. This area contains equipment for weighing and measuring, formulating medicines as pills, tablets, powders, and liquids, as well as boxing, bottling, and corking them. | Creator: Gail Grainne Whitchurch View File Details Page

Museum

Museum

An estimated three million visitors have come to the Hook's Drug Store Museum since its opening in 1966. It is owned and operated by the non-for-profit Hook's Drug Foundation. | Source: Hook's Drug Store Museum View File Details Page

Original Purpose

Original Purpose

The Better Babies Building was designed especially for the annual Better Babies Contests by architects Kopf and Deery, who also designed other notable Indianapolis buildings such as Shortridge High School at 3401 North Meridian Street. | Source: Indiana State Archives, Indiana Commission on Public Records. View File Details Page

Spectators at Indiana State Fair, 1930

Spectators at Indiana State Fair, 1930

The heavily-attended and popular annual Better Babies Contests were sponsored by the Indiana State Board of Health and supervised by Ada E. Schweitzer, M.D. Earlier in her career, she had worked in the Board's Laboratory of Hygiene and had been a colleague of Dr. Helene Knabe, whose office-home is also on this tour. | Source: Indiana State Archives, Indiana Commission on Public Records. View File Details Page

1921 Fair Events

1921 Fair Events

This advertisement listed the Better Babies Contests among the major events of the 1921 Indiana State Fair, under "Day and Evening Features." The ad also provides additional context for the era: Ironically because it was--and still is--considered to be a major failure of the Allies, with whom the United States was an associated power during World War I, the long and bloody Dardanelles Campaign of 1915 was remembered at the 1921 Indiana State Fair. A "lavish spectacle and superb fireworks display" centered on this tragedy was one of the "Two Big Night Shows." | Source: Indianapolis Star View File Details Page

Eugenics Influence

Eugenics Influence

Free at Better Babies Contests, the "Indiana Baby Book" contained parenting tips, with eugenics principles sprinkled throughout. The caption reads, "These healthy children were born of healthy, normal parents. Weak, diseased parents produce weak, diseased children." | Source: "Indiana Baby Book," 2nd ed., 1920, from IUPUI Center for Digital Scholarship | Creator: Indiana State Board of Health View File Details Page

Eugenics Marker - 1

Eugenics Marker - 1

This state historical marker is located on the east lawn of the Indiana State Library, 140 North Senate Avenue, Indianapolis. It provides a brief overview of Indiana's key role in the now-infamous national and international social movement called eugenics, which lasted from about the late 1800s to the mid-1930s. | Creator: Indiana Historical Bureau View File Details Page

Eugenics Marker - 2

Eugenics Marker - 2

In 1907, Indiana was the first state in the country to pass a eugenics law requiring sterilization of the "feebleminded" people in state custody (that is, institutionalized people who had intellectual disabilities). Mandatory sterilizations were halted in 1909 and declared unconstitutional in 1921. Appeals followed, but all of Indiana's sterilization laws had been repealed by 1974. The last of similar laws restricting some marriages were repealed in 1977. | Creator: Indiana Historical Bureau View File Details Page

Hook's Drug Store

Hook's Drug Store

Located on the Indiana State Fairgrounds near the 38th Street gate, Hook's Drug Store Museum is open annually during state fairs, occasionally during the year, and by appointment. Its architectural design seems to be a commercialized version of the Arts and Crafts bungalow style that was popular when it was built in 1927. | Creator: Kurt Lee Nettleton View File Details Page

Street Address:

1202 E 38th St, Indianapolis, IN 46205 [map]

Official Website:

http://www.indianastatefair.com/fairgrounds/

Cite this Page:

Gail Gráinne Whitchurch, Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, “Hook's Drug Store,” Discover Indiana, accessed October 19, 2018, http://indyhist.iupui.edu/items/show/14.

Share this Story