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Corner of Broad and York

Dr. William Blanding’s Drugstore

Posted: May 2, 2013 4:01 p.m.
Updated: May 6, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Some bottles of the era from author Harvey S. Teal's own collection.

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Dr. William Blanding, one of several Blanding family members to come to Camden from Massachusetts, arrived on the scene in 1806. His dental surgeon relative, Dr. Shubel Blanding, arrived in town by 1820 and will be discussed later in this column.

William’s brother, Abram, preceding him in Camden in 1797, read law under Judge Joseph Brevard, and in the 1820s-30s, maintained a satellite law office in Camden. Abram’s permanent home ultimately became Columbia. Abram’s career in South Carolina is discussed extensively by Kirkland and Kennedy in Historic Camden.

The only location found for Dr. Blanding’s Drugstore was the southwest corner of Broad and York Streets but that location was not pinpointed by newspaper sources until 1821. Blanding began his drugstore in 1806 and served the people of Camden until he sold out to Drs. George and William Reynolds on April 3, 1830. During this 24-year period, a newspaper was not present in town until 1816 which might have given business locations.

Owners of the drugstore

On June 4, 1807, Blanding wrote in his diary, “This day W. Langley left Dr. Trent and our shop to study with Dr. Deveaux: being dissatisfied with the treatment he received from Dr. Trent.” This indicates Blanding and Trent were partners in the store for a period of time.

In November 1810, Blanding wrote in his diary, “We do little business….”, the “We” indicating he still had a partner. By 1816, Blanding’s name appeared alone on drugstore ads in the local newspaper.

By May 21, 1820, a drugstore ad was placed under the names of W.[illiam] & S.[hubel] Blanding, an indication Shubel was now a partner. The partnership lasted for less than two years. A notice in the Camden newspaper indicated the partnership had been “dissolved by mutual consent” on January 21, 1822. However, Dr. Shubel Blanding would be involved in a variety of ways in the drugstore operation until its sale. 

In August 1822, Dr. Shubel Blanding moved his dental office to the drugstore and operated the store while Dr. William Blanding was away. On several occasions William called on Shubel to “mind the store” while he was away for extended periods on visits to Massachusetts or away for other reasons. Shubel likely operated the store for short periods of time when William made house calls out in the county.

Dr. Shubel Blanding often moved his office and place of residence to various locations including a house owned by William, a boarding house and rooms in hotels. He sold his household furniture on November 20, 1830. Thereafter, his notices in the local papers indicated frequent absences from town and that he visited Lancaster, Darlington and Sumter to carry on his regional dental practice. During his absences he appointed agents to handle his finances.

His advertisements of the production of porcelain false teeth he baked in his own kiln, setting up a convenient operating room, and ads for dental surgery suggest he was current in his profession. He practiced dentistry in Camden until 1833 when he and his wife moved to Columbia.

Shubel, like Abram and William, was active in local cultural, social and religious affairs. He was an active member of the First Baptist Church, a member and officer in the Masonic Lodge, and a member of the local Bible Society.

Products sold

The local newspapers of 1816-30 provided much information about what appeared on the shelves of the Blanding Drugstore: Castor oil, sweet oil, Croton Oil, calomel, senna, Cream of Tartar, Turlington’s Balsam of Life, indigo, Swain’s Panecea, snuff and other tobacco products, oil and paint for artists, etc. Pictured with this column are examples of some of these items reproduced from the local papers and bottles from the collection of this columnist.

In May 1820 an ad stated, “Have procured from Philadelphia a complete apparatus for making mineral water….Bottles filled for family use at the shortest notice.” Blanding also sold soda water to customers.

Fire and sale of the drugstore and other Blanding property

On November 23, 1829, a fire in Camden reduced to ashes both sides of Broad Street between King and York streets. Only Dr. Blanding’s Drugstore and a small barber shop at the southwest corner of Broad and York survived. Five days later in the Camden Journal, Dr. Blanding thanked the Camden firefighters for saving his drugstore.

On March 6, 1830, a little over three months later, Dr. William Blanding advertised the sale of his drugstore, all his real and personal property, and the closure of his business in Camden. Due to his opposition to slavery and for several other reasons, Dr. Blanding had been planning to sell out and close his Camden business for some time. Perhaps nearly losing his drugstore to the fire prompted him to proceed at that time.

Dr. Blanding had amassed a surprising amount of real estate: the drugstore, a house and two lots then occupied by Dr. S. Blanding, three houses and two lots west of Broad Street on York, his home at The Oaks and four lots fronting 100 feet on Broad Street and 350 feet on the public square, and an 80-40 building formerly occupied as a meeting house for the Methodist Episcopal Society, All total he owned a drugstore, an 80x40 foot building, five houses and eight city lots.

In the ad, he included personal property such as furniture, drugstore stock, a carriage, a one-horse wagon, a carry all, a horse cart, and two sulkies. Payment terms, including payment over time, were detailed. Later notices in the paper indicated who would receive money owed to him.

Dr. Blanding’s final departure from Camden did not occur for about four more years. Liquidating his estate in Camden and other activities kept him in town. A future article will detail one or more of these activities and previous ones such as visits to local gold mines, collecting relics, studying the local Indians, creating maps, conducting his medical practice, sending specimens to museums, and his work as a naturalist.


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