Linus Pauling harbored many fond memories of his short time in the small town of Condon, Oregon. Of these memories, a number of them involve his father Herman and his drugstore.
Herman Pauling, born in 1876, began his career in pharmacy as the apprentice of an Oswego druggist. Before long, he was working his way through the ranks of a large Portland pharmacy, and was soon asked to manage a store in Condon. In the summer of 1899, Herman, then only 22 years old, arrived in the small wild-west town. The residents of Condon were overjoyed to have a registered pharmacist, and Herman quickly began to develop a reputation as a skilled and honest druggist.
Unfortunately, his success was short-lived. The investors providing the backing for the store sold out, and Herman was not asked to stay on. Despite his search for another job in Condon and the surrounding area, he and his new bride, the former Lucy Isabelle Darling, were forced to return to Portland in the summer of 1900. It was in Portland that Linus Carl Pauling was born on February 28, 1901.
Despite the early set-backs, Herman’s desire to run his own drugstore was far from gone. He worked hard in the Portland area to save money, and in March of 1905 he returned to Condon, where competition was scarce and economic conditions were improving. When he arrived, he was literally given half a store as well as money to buy supplies by his brother-in-law, Herbert Stephenson. Understandably, this was exciting to Herman and it wasn’t long before Belle and the children had joined him.
Herman was very dedicated to creating a successful pharmacy, and it wasn’t long before his hard work began to pay off. Calling himself a “manufacturing pharmacist,” he, like many other pharmacists of the time, created his own pills or solutions to treat various ailments. His store was also founded on a “No Cure, No Pay” policy – that is, if the cure didn’t work for you, you were refunded in full. Fortunately for Herman, his products seemed to do the trick. In 1907, Herman partnered with a young jeweler and opened an improved and expanded store in a prime location of town.
Although Herman’s primary concern was manufacturing drugs, he also had a knack for advertising, which he quickly put to use in full force. His advertisements could be seen on billboards, flyers, painted benches around town, and weekly notices in the newspaper. The advertisements typically consisted of simple announcements of new products, testimonials from loyal customers, and sometimes even poetry written by Herman himself. For example, he promoted his Almond and Cucumber Cream by writing:
When sweet Marie was sweet sixteen / She used Pauling’s Almond and Cucumber Cream / Tho’ many winters since she’s seen, / She still remains just sweet sixteen.
Other products created by Herman included “Pauling’s Pink Pills for Pain,” “Pauling’s Improved Blood Purifier,” “Pauling’s Mixture for the Blood, Liver, and Kidneys,” and “Pauling’s Barb Wire Cure.” A few of these products can be seen in the advertisements shown below.
As his father’s business matured, so too was Linus becoming a curious and intelligent child. While he and his cousin Mervyn Stephenson played together often, young Linus frequently took an interest in the more grown-up world of his father’s drugstore. Linus would, for example, sometimes sit in the back room of the store, watching his father combine various mysterious ingredients into a single medicinal compound. Herman was essentially doing simple chemistry, and although Linus’ interest in chemistry wasn’t fully piqued until later, his time spent in the drugstore could have easily played a role.
In 1908, Herman decided to overtake the jewelry business after his partner’s sudden death from pneumonia. He also imported an optician from Portland and the partnership continued to grow and prosper. Herman’s profile in the community was likewise still on the rise, to the point where he was put in charge of Condon’s Fourth of July celebration for 1908.
Unfortunately, this success would once again not endure. Soon after the Fourth of July festivities, a competing jeweler issued a minor verbal attack against Herman. Herman took the remarks personally and initiated a heated debate in the newspaper that lasted for three weeks with no resolution. From this incident, Herman’s reputation as a pharmacist was tarnished. Not long after, he was arrested on false bootlegging charges and a fire destroyed a portion of the stock in his store.
Herman had finally had enough of Condon. He collected insurance on the store, sold his share of the company, and moved his family back to Portland where he immediately began to work on opening yet another drugstore. Tragically, in June of 1910, only a few months after returning to Portland, Herman Pauling suddenly became very ill and died within twenty-four hours of feeling sick. The official cause of his death was gastritis, but Herman often complained of what he called his “tummick ake”. Linus later contributed his father’s death to a likely cause of this pain, a perforating ulcer – to which stress from his constant hard work could have been a major contributing factor.