Hook's Drug Store Museum

Hook's Drug Stores were Indiana fixtures throughout most of the twentieth century. Founder John A. Hook opened his first Indianapolis store in 1900 in a building at 1101 S. East Street (now the Fountain Square neighborhood; the building has since been demolished). By 1914, there were eight Hook's Drug Stores and, by 1950, fifty stores. In the 1990s the Hook's Drug Store name was retired after a series of takeovers and consolidations, although many of its 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 was intended as a three-month exhibition for the 1966 fair, but it became permanent because of huge attendance at that fair and continued strong interest. The museum re-creates the look and ambiance of an Indiana drugstore around the turn of the twentieth century, with its mixture of antiques from the late 1800s and early 1900s: a soda fountain, cabinets, fixtures, furniture, and artifacts. To some extent it is also a functioning drugstore, selling some over-the-counter remedies and old-style candies and merchandise when it is open during state fairs and at various other times during the year.

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

The museum is housed in a building originally constructed on the fairgrounds for a different purpose. 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 a drugstore like John Hook's original. This building was originally the Better Babies Building, constructed in 1927 with a $5000 special state government appropriation to house the heavily-attended Better Babies Contests, during which physicians and psychologists weighed, measured, and tested mental abilities of contestants with the goal of identifying Indiana's most perfect babies.

Cherished by the public and held annually during state fairs from 1920 to 1932, Better Babies Contests initially were a part of efforts to reduce infant mortality. However, these contests were also influenced by the worldwide eugenics social movement that lasted from about the late 1800s to the mid-1930s. Using the terminology of that time: The eugenics movement focused on caucasians, seeking "improvement of the race" by fostering marriages of "the fit" and "healthful rearing of their children." Proponents of this movement also sought to prevent conception of babies by "the unfit": criminals, "the insane," epileptics, and "the feebleminded" (intellectual disabilities).

Better Babies Contest ratings were initially based on normative child development milestones but, in an effort to standardize ratings, organizers created scorecards like those for judging livestock. The influence of animal breeding on Better Babies Contests is unmistakable. For example, 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

Exterior, 2013

Exterior, 2013

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. Photo by Kurt Lee Nettleton, 2013. | Creator: Kurt Lee Nettleton 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. Photo by Kurt Lee Nettleton, 2013. | 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. Image courtesy of Gail Grainne Whitchurch, 2013. | Creator: Gail Grainne Whitchurch View File Details Page

Museum, 1960s

Museum, 1960s

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

Original Purpose, 1927

Original Purpose, 1927

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. Photo courtesy of the Indiana State Archives, Indiana Commission on Public Records. | 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. Photo courtesy of the Indiana State Archives, Indiana Commission on Public Records. | 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." Image courtesy of Indianapolis Star, 3 September 1921. | 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." Image courtesy of Indiana State Board of Health, "Indiana Baby Book," 2nd ed., 1920, from IUPUI Center for Digital Scholarship | 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. Image courtesy of the Indiana Historical Bureau. | 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. Image courtesy of the Indiana Historical Bureau. | Creator: Indiana Historical Bureau View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Gail Gráinne Whitchurch, “Hook's Drug Store Museum,” Discover Indiana, accessed September 22, 2017, http://indyhist.iupui.edu/items/show/14.
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