The Alabama Pharmacy Association (APA) began with the gathering of Alabama pharmacists on August 11, 1881. The meeting took place at the courthouse in Birmingham which was only ten years old, little more than a mining village with a box car used as a wayside railroad station, and pharmacy, itself a mere infant, a “side issue” of medicine.
Birmingham’s weekly newspaper, "Iron Age", reported this historic meeting as taking place at “two o’clock Tuesday, August 11, 1881, at the Jefferson County Courthouse. With S.W. Gillespie, of Birmingham, acting chairman.” The meeting had been arranged, indeed prodded, by Philip Charles Candidus of Mobile, who for several years had been trying to get Alabama pharmacists to organize.
Candidus, often referred to as the “Nestor of Pharmacy in Alabama,” was born in Bavaria, June 15, 1831. He came to America as a lad of 17, settling in Philadelphia, then the seat of pharmacy in the United States. He studied at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. Later in 1856, he migrated south to Aberdeen, Mississippi. When the war came, he volunteered his services to the Confederate government. At the end of the war, he settled in Mobile where, about 1868, he opened an apothecary shop. According to the Department of Archives and History in Montgomery, his first store was located at Dauphin and Lawrence. Candidus, who died in Mobile, March 6, 1910, had served as a first vice-president of the American Pharmaceutical Association (now APhA) in 1904-1905 and was elected the first honorary president of the American Pharmaceutical Association in 1907.
It was natural that Candidus would have been elected president of this first gathering in 1881 of the Alabama Pharmaceutical Association and that he would have led the group in patterning its constitution and bylaws after that of the parent of organized pharmacy in America, APhA, whose beginnings dated to 1852.
Present at the 1881 meeting, other than Candidus, were the following members: Charles Mohr, Mobile; G.C. Stollenwerck, Greensboro; L.T. Bradfield, Uniontown; Hugo Plato, Cullman; W.J. Hurd, Prattville; J.E. Davis, John L. Davis, A.L. Stollenwerck, J.W. Hughes, William Hoyt, F.D. Nabers, C.M. Morrow, Y.P. Newman, and S.M. Gillespie, all of Birmingham.
One of the primary purposes in organizing the Alabama Pharmacy Association (originally named the Alabama Pharmaceutical Association) was to remove the interests of pharmacy from the care of the physician’s organization and place them under a board of pharmacy’s own. Further, the group believed that the lives and health of people depended as much upon the competence and integrity of the prescriptionist as upon the physician and that pharmacy should be elevated to the dignity of a profession.
Finally the educated, trained pharmacist, who had spent years in study and preparation, wanted protection against the untrained and irresponsible dispenser of inferior drugs who was in business for profit alone. This, the group believed, could only be achieved by requiring all vendors of drugs to stand examination and obtain a license from an official board of pharmacists, under the sanction of law.
The Department of Archives and History notes that in the early days in Alabama, around 1825, there were 35 to 50 places where drugs were distributed. Distribution was handled through general merchandise stores in the larger towns, which in turn supplied the smaller merchants and physicians. Every physician of the day carried in his saddlebag vials and bottles of everything necessary to practice.
In the free enterprise milieu of the 19th century America, obviously one could set himself up in practice as a pharmacist with impunity. Permitting pharmacy to be practiced by the untrained, without restriction of any kind, endangered the public welfare and the need for regulation became essential.
The first act of the new association was to draw up a pharmacy law to submit to the state legislature at the 1882-1883 session. The bill was not passed the first time it was brought to the legislature, but only after several years of consistent work by the association, and after the bill was amended and re-amended, did it pass on February 28, 1887.
The first pharmacy law was applicable only to towns of more than 1,000 inhabitants. The law made it mandatory on the governor to appoint a board of pharmacy for the state of Alabama, ‘to be composed of three druggists, who had at least five years of practical experience” and who were to serve one, two and three years respectively. The first board members were P.C. Candidus, E.P. Galt, and Joseph Milner.
The Alabama Pharmacy Association, in its constant goal to protect the public health and to upgrade the profession of pharmacy, led legislative fights to amend the original law in 1897, 1907, 1909, 1915, 1931, and again in 1966.
The organization grew rapidly from the time of its organization in 1881, and the association was chartered under state law in 1884. With hardly more than a dozen members at the beginning, there were over 100 active members on the roll (at $1.00 annual dues) at the time of the passage of the first pharmacy law in 1887.
Organized originally to correct some of pharmacy’s problems, the association soon found that organization alone was not sufficient, that the association would constantly need to watchdog legislation and would also need to sponsor legislation. So in 1884 a legislative committee was named and has remained a permanent committee.
In reflecting on that first meeting in August 1881, one must see that the 15 men, who came with great difficulty by horse and buggy from all around the state, were men of great vision. They recognized the absolute necessity for joining with their colleagues to accomplish their goals, that necessity is no less today.
An organization which has maintained its integrity, which has grown and changed with the times, and which continues to exist for more than a century, has perhaps amply justified its existence. From the point of view of its members, services rendered by APA over the years are tangible and obvious enough.