From the Collections: America’s First College of Pharmacy Now Part of St. Joseph’s University

From the Collections is a recurring feature at that highlights articles, artifacts, images, and other items of interest from AIHP publications and collections. This post is contributed by William A. Zellmer, a past president of AIHP.

The years 2021 and 2022 have marked important milestones in the long and illustrious history of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy (PCP), the first school of pharmacy in North America.

On June 1, 2022, several months after concluding its bicentennial celebration, PCP became part of Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) in Philadelphia, stemming from SJU’s merger with the University of the Sciences, the institutional home of PCP.

Philadelphia College of Pharmacy

A century earlier, PCP had changed its name to the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science (PCPS), taking into account its degree programs in four disciplines: bacteriology, biology, chemistry, and pharmacy. In 1998, reflecting the college’s even more expanded array of health and science educational programs, PCPS renamed itself the University of Sciences in Philadelphia (later shortened to University of the Sciences or USciences). At the time of the recent merger, USciences enrollment stood at 2,285 students.

SJU, founded in 1851, is a private Jesuit university that offers 135 undergraduate programs, 77 graduate programs, and 9 adult learner programs. Its 2020 student enrollment was 6,779.

Within Saint Joseph’s, PCP resides administratively in the School of Health Professions, which includes programs for preparing physical therapists, occupational therapists, physician assistants, and now, pharmacists. Edward Foote, PharmD, FCCP, an alumnus of PCPS, is the John Wyeth Dean of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and also serves as Associate Dean of the School of Health Professions.

PCP’s Origin Story

In April 1821, The Journal of Foreign Medical Science and Literature published an announcement of the founding of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. When AIHP’s journal Pharmacy in History republished that notice in 2008 as a “classic article in the history of pharmacy,” Dr. Gregory Higby put PCP’s genesis in context with these comments:

In March 1821, apothecaries and wholesale druggists in Philadelphia came together and formed the College of Apothecaries, the first pharmacy organization in the United States. Their plan for professional advancement was ambitious and included the establishment of the first American school of pharmacy. A year later, the state of Pennsylvania recognized its status as a corporation under a new name, the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. From its beginning in 1821 to the present, the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy has remained prominent in the progress of the profession….[The 1821 announcement] shows how the College was established as a local pharmacy association with broad goals and high aspirations. Threatened by the prospect of a University of Pennsylvania program (run by physicians) to certify master apothecaries, the elite of Philadelphia pharmacy acted quickly to meet the challenge and set the scene for professional development nationally.

Pharmacy in History published another chapter in PCP’s story in a 2018 article by Daniel J. Flanagan: “A Short History of the Degree Programs at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.

Commitment To Pharmacy History

PCP’s Marvin Samson Center for the History of Pharmacy has a collection of more than 8,000 pharmacy and medical artifacts and documents dating back to the 1600s, including ceramic apothecary jars, pharmacy show globes, mortars and pestles, and other tools and instruments central to the pharmacist’s historical role in prescription compounding and drug manufacturing. According to Dean Foote, the Center has hired a half-time curator for a year to modernize its museum displays and its curatorial processes. PCP plans to re-launch the Center at a public ceremony sometime in 2023.

Also of note is PCP’s J. W. England Library, which has collected numerous historically important publications in the pharmaceutical field since its inception in 1821. The Leopold Helfand Rare Book Room and Archives at the England Library contains unique manuscripts that document American pharmacy in the 1800s.

According to Dean Foote, PCP is collaborating with the history department of SJU in the ongoing process of cataloging and preserving the extensive holdings of the Samson Center and the England Library.

AIHP is pleased to count Dean Foote among its members and PCP as a contributor to its Pharmacy Education Fund.

Posted: November 16, 2022

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