Society History

1792: Edward Stabler opens a shop selling pharmacueticals and other items in the heart of Alexandria.
1796: Mr. Stabler moves his business to 107 S. Fairfax St. which is still open today as the Apothecary Museum.
1829: Edward Stabler purchases 105 S. Fairfax St.
1831: Edward Stabler dies and his son William takes over the business.
1845: William Stabler purchases a warehouse building.
1852: William Stabler dies and his brother-in-law, John Leadbeater takes over the business.
1860: John Leadbeater dies and his son Edward Stabler Leadbeater takes over the business.
1862: The Union Army Quartermaster begins requisitioning supplies from the firm during the Civil War.
1865: The Apothecary began to suffer the ups and downs of Alexandria's economy over the next few decades.
1933: What remained of the Stabler-Leadbeater firm closes; building contents are auctioned off and the Landmark Society is established to preserve and protect a unique piece of urban history.

 (Click on the pictures below for enlarged views.)

This July 20, 1933 Washington Hearld article reads:

"GOING, GOING – The second oldest drug store in America, Leadbeater’s in Alexandria, went on the auction block, with its antiques, yesterday, and the bidding lasted far into the evening. Here’s the crowd inside. An order from Martha Washington for castor oil brought $51. Alexandria raised $1,000 to buy some of the famous relics."

The auction was an event that generated great interest from on-lookers and the wider public.  In the enlarged picture you can see the CBS radio microphone.

The Alexandria Gazette reported that although many people attended, only a few actually bid on and won some individual items, mostly business-related letters from the homes of famous people in history.

This 1802 note, presumably from Mrs. Washington, sold for $51 - the equivalent of about $888 in 2011.

The Gazette article also mentioned that the American Pharmaceutical Association purchased the majority of the individual items .

 The Association for the Preservation of Alexandria Antiquities planned to buy one or more of the four buildings that had housed what was then the second oldest drug store in the country.

The Landmarks Society of Alexandria was organized to develop a museum to make the best use of the 105-107 S. Fairfax St. buildings with their Gothic Revival interiors. The Society's efforts were extensively supported by the Friends of the American Pharmacist Association.


1939:   After renovations the Apothecary Museum opened as reported in the Washington Post on May 21, 1939.

 The article noted that the museum housed the "finest collection of antique drug store furnishings and medicinal bottles in America."

The Landmarks Society of Alexandria took responsibility for the museum building, and the American Pharmaceutical Association sponsored its operations.

Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt visited the Museum to help commenerate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop.  

Many of the items in this picture and in the pictures above can still be seen in the Museum.  

A newspaper article of the day noted that Mrs. Roosevelt contributed to the maintenance of the Museum by adding to money being collected in a glass bottle on the counter. 

1949: Throughout the years the Landmark Society maintained the Apothecary Museum as an important part of Alexandria's history. The back of the photo on the left reads:

“Bicentennial Commission 1949
Jos. E. Schwarzmann 
at Leadbeater Drug Store Alexandria Va”

This photo was sent to the Apothecary Museum by John Schwarzmann, grandson of the man in the photo, Joseph Shwarzmann. The younger Schwarzmann explained: “My father and grandfather were very involved with the city and its historical history. My grandfather Joseph E. Schwarzmann was the Director of Public relations for the Alexandria Gazette and Authority on Alexandria's Historical and legendary Past.”

Unfortunately, we don't know who the appropriately dressed woman and child in the photo are. Do you? Does your family have any pictures taken at the Apothecary in one of its earlier incarnations?  The Museum would like to know.

1950s-1990s: In subsequent years one of the ways that the Landmark Society tried to support the Museum was by operating an antique store in part of the historic building.

Several corporate members, primarily pharmacist and pharmaceutical associations, were also important to maintaining the existence of the Museum. However, the costs of running the Museum in a deteriorating 18th century building continued to mount.

2006:The Landmark Society in conjunction with the City of Alexandria arranged for major stability and safety renovations to the 18th century building.

2006: The City of Alexandria took over responsibility for operating the Apothecary Museum from the Landmark Society.

2009:The Landmark Society became the Mortar & Pestle Society to provide continuing support for Alexandria's unique Apothecary Museum.

2011: You, too, can become part of the Apothecary's history by JOINING THE MORTAR & PESTLE SOCIETY!