Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Before Big Pharma: Enhancing the UW-Madison School of Pharmacy/AIHP Pharmaceutical Trade Catalog Collection


The University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy owns, and the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy (AIHP) administers, an important collection of more than 400 historical pharmaceutical trade catalogs published between 1829 and the 2000s. The collection is particularly strong in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and documents the evolution and the growth of the pharmaceutical trade, drug manufacturing, and retail pharmacy in the United States. Many libraries, archives, and repositories have not preserved these ephemeral annual catalogs in their collections. Accordingly, the information within these detailed and illustrated catalogs has often been hard to find.

This project will lead to acquisition of additional pharmaceutical trade catalogs that fill gaps in this important collection. Pharmaceutical trade catalogs have wide-ranging utility in the humanities, medical humanities, social sciences and adjacent fields. These catalogs contain advertisements for varied pharmaceutical preparations, chemical products, dyes, paints, oils, glassware, perfumery, furniture, toiletries, commercial goods, and other items sold in drugstores and pharmacies. The catalogs feature lengthy lists of medications and prices, as well as color lithographs and other product illustrations.

These resources present unique research opportunities for scholars in many different fields. Business historians, for example, could chart the evolution of these early American entrepreneurs. Other parts of the collection will speak to those interested in drug history, the history of the pharmacy profession, the art of early American advertising, and mail order/commercial catalog culture. For teaching purposes, the trade catalog collection could be useful in teaching for the Health and the Humanities Certificate program.


Lucas Richert, Associate Professor, School of Pharmacy; Historical Director, American Institute of the History of Pharmacy


Micaela Sullivan-Fowler, Distinguished Academic Librarian and Curator & History of the Health Sciences Librarian


Gregory Bond, University Services Associate, School of Pharmacy; Assistant Director and Head

Archivist, American Institute of the History of Pharmacy

Gregory Higby, Senior Academic Curator and Senior Lecturer, Social and Administrative Sciences Division; Fischelis Scholar, American Institute of the History of Pharmacy