Herman Pauling: Striving for a Better Life

Herman Pauling with his three children in Salem, Oregon, where the family briefly lived.

Herman Pauling with his three children in Salem, Oregon, where the family briefly lived.

(Part 2 of 2)

His family settled in Salem but not happy about it, it did not take long for Herman Pauling to look for new employment opportunitiess, and in March 1905 he traveled to Portland to explore the possibility of opening a drugstore.  After visiting the Skidmore Drug Company, his old employer, and deciding that Portland was not going to work out, Herman once again set his sights on Condon.

With the help of Belle’s brother-in-law, Herbert Stephenson, Herman was able to locate a storefront and a place for his family to live.  The logistics settled, Herman wrote to Belle back in Salem, asking her to come join him so that they could start their life anew.  Herman’s letter also revealed a deeper motivation behind his relentless work ethic:

We cannot imagine what it is but I feel that either ourselves or our children will someday stand before the world as a specimen of a high standard of intelligence.


Linus Pauling, a Condon Cowboy at age 5.

Linus Pauling, a Condon Cowboy at age 5.

Condon was in the midst of an economic boom when the Paulings came to town.  The Northern Pacific Railroad had built a spur to Condon to help connect the area’s abundant wheat harvests with the rest of the country.  The town’s favorable economic conditions helped the population to grow and, being the only druggist in town, Herman benefited from the rising tide.  He brought his store to the town’s attention by placing large ads in the weekly Globe newspaper, announcing products like “Pauling’s Pink Pills for Paling,” “Pauling’s Improved Blood Purifier,” and “Pauling’s Barb Wire Cure.”  Herman also sold postcards featuring his son, Linus, dressed up and captioned:  “A Condon Cowboy.”

Condon brought its challenges as well.  The summer heat was hard on Herman and Belle too had also grown accustomed to the milder summer of the Willamette Valley.  To escape the heat, Belle and the children would travel to Oswego for long stays with Herman’s parents, while Herman himself stayed behind to manage the store.  By his second summer in Condon, Herman began conjuring up ideas for how he could get out of eastern Oregon, but it took a few years and more struggles before that would come to pass.


Promotional calendar offered by H.W. Pauling, druggist. 1907.

Promotional calendar offered by H.W. Pauling, druggist. 1907.

The financial panic of 1907 reached out from Wall Street to all corners of the country, including Condon, and it made a negative impact on Herman’s business.  To help shore up his income, Herman partnered with a jeweler who promptly died the following year, leaving Herman to take over his role while also expanding into other areas, like selling eyeglasses.  Herman’s associations through his many fellowship organizations, including Woodmen of the World and the Odd Fellows, helped to keep the drugstore profitable both through and after the panic, but staying afloat did not come easy.

Combined with his continuing need to engage in business travel, Herman’s long hours at work brought more and more pressure on his marriage.  Belle was outspoken about her disappointment in Herman, while Herman tried to do what he could to keep their problems out of the range of the children.  In one letter, Herman let out what he had been holding back.

I have quite enough to worry me without asking you to peck, peck, peck at me.  But I guess you cannot help it, as that blessing is characteristic of the Darling family… Were it not for trying to get a start financially so you and the little ones may live in an abbreviated form of luxury in later years, I would not stay in this God forsaken hole a moment.  You have discouraged me so often in my efforts that I would think you would eventually come to a conclusion to encourage me a little by discontinuing your nonsensical jealousy.

Ground down by the pressures of life, Herman’s health began to suffer.  He developed insomnia and what he described as a “tummick ake,” a condition that would sometimes incapacitate him, leaving him bedridden.  More often that not however, his stomach problems could be soothed simply by eating something.  Armed with an easy method for treating his symptoms, he pushed along as best as he could.


The Pauling children, 1908.

The Pauling children, 1908.

Though he was unable to spend much time with them, Herman adored his children and sought to be the best possible role model, always hoping that they would grow up to be “an asset to the human race.”  He brought his son to work with him and Linus maintained memories of watching his father concoct various medicines, using careful measurements while also testing the compounds through various chemical reactions.

Herman also looked after Linus, who could get into trouble when he was not at home or in his father’s store.  One day Linus was exploring a building that was in the process of being constructed.  One of the workmen saw him there and was angered.  Linus tried to climb out the window, but the workman caught him before he could escape and ended up giving the young boy a beating.

When Linus came crying to his father, Herman immediately went out, found the workman, and punched him to the ground.  As Linus later remembered, his father was arrested soon afterwards.  Though Linus had associated his father’s arrest with assaulting the workman, according to biographer Thomas Hager, the arrest was more likely tied to charges of bootlegging that had been levied against Herman. (He was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.)

While most of the town appreciated Herman, some locals felt otherwise.  After Herman had organized a Fourth of July celebration and run advertisements in the program for the day’s baseball game, the other jeweler in town wrote a letter to the editor of the Globe, attacking his competitor for his advertising tactics.  Herman did not stand for this public affront and retaliated by writing a lengthy response, titled “The Truth Will Out,” that described how “Sorehead Charlie” was being unfair and that, in business, having enemies is helpful, but not at the cost of fair play.  The exchange went on for several weeks until both sides eventually calmed down.

As time passed, Herman and Belle became increasingly eager to get out of Condon. Herman did not like dealing with the recurrent diphtheria and whooping cough which a few of the area’s children.  Belle, as had been the case since they first married, wanted Herman to work less, frequently complaining about his work schedule, which often ran to fourteen hours per day. In early 1909, the final catalyst for a move came about in an unexpected fashion, when Herman’s store caught fire. The local firefighters who responded to the blaze wound up causing even more damage by breaking the store’s front window and the glass figures that were on display.  Badly shaken, Herman focused intently on relocating and, by the fall, had saved enough money to move his family to Portland.


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Back in the big city, Herman spent some time at the Skidmore Drug Company before opening up a new store on the growing east side of town.  In Portland, Herman took a different approach and got out of most of the extra lines of merchandise that he had sold in Condon – jewelry, phonographs and the like.  He did, however, add a soda fountain.

But business was slow.  Herman kept himself occupied by taking up German – Belle had been enrolled in classes at the local high school, and Herman thought it would be fun to join her as she learned.  It was also something to make him look busy when customers came in.

Herman likewise continued to encourage Linus’s growing curiosity by teaching him Latin to help supplement his budding interest in ancient civilizations.  In May 1910, Herman also wrote to the editor of The Oregonian asking for advice about books to provide for his nine-year old son’s new interests.  The editor responded by suggesting Plutarch, Herodotus, and Thomas Arnold’s The History of Rome.

Sadly, Herman did not have much time to follow up on the suggestions.  On June 11, while the rest of the family, along with Belle’s sisters, were at the Portland Rose Festival, Herman was back working when he started to get one of his stomach aches.  He went home and ate some of the roast that Belle had prepared for dinner which, as usual, helped to settle his stomach and allowed him to return to the store.

But the pain quickly returned and ferociously so. Herman collapsed and had to be carried home where he lay until his family arrived.  After seeing his wife, son and daughters one last time, Herman soon passed away, leaving Belle to care for their three young children.  He died at the age of 34, the victim of a perforated ulcer and attendant peritonitis.

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The Life of Herman Pauling – Linus Pauling’s Father

Herman Pauling, ca. 1899.

Herman Pauling, ca. 1899.

(Part 1 of 2)

The son of German immigrants, Charles Henry “Carl” Pauling – Linus Pauling’s paternal grandfather – joined his father and brothers during the Civil War by enlisting in Company E of the 45th Regiment of the Missouri Volunteers.  After the war, Carl met Adelheit Blanken, who had come to Missouri with her family from Germany.  They settled in Concordia, Missouri, where they had four children: the youngest, Herman Henry William, was born in 1876.

The following year, the family traveled to Biggs, California where they settled in a predominately German community. It was here where Herman’s sister, Anne Charlotte, was born.  Herman and Anne would be the only two of Carl and Adelheit’s five children to survive into their twenties.

In 1882 the Paulings moved again, this time to Oswego, Oregon, near Portland.  Here Carl worked as an iron monger at the largest foundry west of the Rockies.  It was likewise in Oswego that Herman began to attend grammar school.  By the tenth grade, in 1890, he had grown tired of school and dropped out, talking his way into an apprenticeship with a local druggist instead.


Condon drug store, early 1900s.

Condon drug store, early 1900s.

In the late 19th century, medicine not well regulated, leaving the door open for basically anyone to come along and make whatever claims they wished concerning the efficacy of their products.  The druggist with whom Herman apprenticed taught him to avoid making wild statements and instead instilled in him the importance of the druggist’s responsibility to his customers. This professional ethic was closely bound to the practice of careful preparation of extracts, compounds, ointments, tinctures, oils and other products.  By his nineteenth birthday, after several years apprenticing, Herman felt confident enough to move to Portland, where he found work at one of the largest pharmacies in the city.

The pharmacy, Skidmore Drug Company, employed Herman as a traveling salesman, his purview being a one-hundred mile area ringing Portland; he covered his turf by horse and buggy.  After a financial depression hit the country in late 1893, Herman moved back to Oswego to run his own pharmacy.  The depression led to the closing of Oswego’s massive foundry, pushing many to leave town, including the doctors and other druggists.  Pretty soon Herman found that he was only person in town who could possibly care for the sick and his reputation quickly spread.  The town was grateful for his skills and his caring disposition – as instilled by his mentor – in addition to the low fees that he charged for his consultations.  If he was particularly concerned about them, Herman would commonly visit his patients well after their original appointment, making sure that their health had improved.

Herman’s reputation spread back to Portland as well, and investors there saw him as the perfect person to open up a drugstore in the small eastern Oregon town of Condon. By this time, regulations on drug sales had begun to increase, creating opportunities for those who were well-situated to meet the new standards and get in on the emerging market.


Herman Pauling, 1902.

Herman Pauling, 1902.

Upon first arriving in Condon in the summer of 1899, Herman was not impressed.  The town center consisted of six blocks along Main Street that ran right out into the desert and wheat farms. But by the fall, things began to look up.  Just as in Oswego, his good reputation quickly grew and he became the featured guest at several town functions.  The weekly newspaper, The Globe, described “Doctor” Pauling as “a registered, reliable and experienced druggist.”

He also began to attract the attention of some of the younger women in town.  Goldie Stephenson, the oldest daughter of one of the area’s wealthier families, invited Herman over to her house to meet her sister Belle.  The two immediately hit it off and soon could be seen talking to each other at many of the town’s community dinners and dances.  By Christmas, Herman had proposed to Belle and she immediately accepted.  Herman had business to attend to back in Portland soon after, and so had to be away from his fiancé for a brief time.   This gave him the opportunity to express his love in letters.  In a valentine that Herman wrote to Belle, he confided

Dear love, when life’s storms are raging fiercely I offer you my arms as your protection, and you can trust in their fond yet firm embrace.  When in after years the cares of home and motherhood bear upon your mind you shall find me ever an able assistant and benefactor.

Herman even wrote her a poem:

A maiden fair with jet black hair/ Her heart beats kind and true/ She confides in me her every care/ This maid with eyes light blue.

Herman and Belle married on May 27, 1900 at the Congregationalist Church in Condon.  (Herman was raised as a Lutheran, but was quite willing to adapt to Belle’s Congregationalist upbringing.)  Trouble struck quickly however as, only weeks after the wedding, the Portland investors that had backed Herman’s initial move to Condon pulled out of the venture, leaving Herman scrambling to look for a new job.  Herman had to settle for a clerk’s position at a pharmacy in Portland and the newlyweds found a small apartment near Chinatown.


The young father with his infant daughter, Pauline, and slightly older son, Linus. 1903.

The young father with his infant daughter, Pauline, and slightly older son, Linus. 1903.

Newly married, Herman worked as hard as he could to support his new bride. Meanwhile, the entertainment and shopping possibilities in Portland gave Belle new realms to explore that were unavailable in Condon.  Belle was also pregnant when they arrived in Portland; Linus Carl Pauling, Belle and Herman’s first child, was born at the end of February 1901.  Herman was thrilled to have a son and worked even harder to provide for his growing family.  But this left Belle alone much of the time to take care of Linus on her own.  Only nineteen years old, the young mother was still drawn to the possibilities of the city.  But her feeling of being stuck with the children continued to grow as Pauline was born in August 1902, and Lucile on New Year’s Day 1904.

When Herman was home, he would take Linus for walks around the neighborhood to try to wear out the energetic toddler.  The two wandered through the shops and Herman’s charismatic little boy drew the attention of neighborhood merchants who taught Linus to count to one-hundred in Chinese, a talent that garnered a measure of celebrity for the little boy as he displayed his counting skills for passersby.  Belle sometimes joined Herman and Linus on their walks, and the family often visited a nearby water fountain.

Herman continued to look for a better job and eventually found one in Salem as a traveling salesman for the jeweler and druggist D. J. Fry.  By October 1904, the family had moved into their new house in Salem.  For his job, Herman traveled up and down the Willamette Valley, sometimes seventy miles in one day, still using a horse and buggy.  With Herman away even more, Belle was left to care for the children in another new town, and she quickly made it known that she was not happy with their situation.  In his correspondence with his wife, Herman’s replies are directed at a better future; one where he would own his own drugstore and could provide Belle with more luxury than she had thus far known in their married life.

Herman Pauling’s Condon Pharmacy

Obituary of Herman W. Pauling, 1910.

Obituary of Herman W. Pauling, 1910.

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.

A monthly billing statement issued by the Herman Pauling drugstore.

A monthly billing statement issued by the Herman Pauling drugstore.

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.

Assorted advertisements for Herman Pauling's drugstore as well as "Pauling & Keene Watchmakers, Jewelers, Opticians"

Assorted advertisements for Herman Pauling's drugstore as well as "Pauling & Keene Watchmakers, Jewelers, Opticians"

An advertisement (center-top) for Herman Pauling's drugstore.

An advertisement (center-top) for Herman Pauling's drugstore.

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.

For more stories of Pauling in Oregon, see our growing series of posts celebrating Oregon150 or visit the Linus Pauling Online portal.

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