Dear Doctor Knox:
In our yard we found a medicine bottle that reads:
The Prescription Store
Was wondering how old it is?
My Dear Mme. Hollander:
Your bottle might puzzle Knoxvillians of a certain age. The unusual name Lotspeich is a prominent one in 20th-century Knoxville history. Roy Lotspeich (1882-1951), originally from Greeneville, was the Republican underwear-mill capitalist who bought the daily Knoxville Journal in 1936 and gave the morning paper its distinctly conservative cast. He's the only Lotspeich who shows up in most local history books. Why his name would appear on an ancient medicine bottle isn't a quick read.
However, research does turn up one Lotspeich more likely to have his name printed on a medicine bottle. Charles Lotspeich was a pharmacist or, as we called them in his day (and as the British still do) a chemist. He grew up in Knoxville, but the fact that his father, V.S. Lotspeich, originally came from Greene County suggests he and Roy might have been cousins. As a young man, Charles worked at several well-known local pharmacies, including the biggest mortar and pestle of them all, Sanford, Chamberlain and Albers---before opening his own Lotspeich Pharmacy at 324 N. Central, at the intersection of Park (later Magnolia) around 1909. It probably seemed an ideal location for a drugstore, just around the corner from the busy Southern passenger terminal, near big, busy White Lily Flour and brand-new Knoxville High School, and on the popular streetcar line to Chilhowee Park.
He ran his own store only until about 1930, which as you may recall was a hard time for many small businesses. Thereafter he stayed employed, working for other drugstores, but not under his own name. So it's probably safe to assume that your bottle dates from ca. 1909 to 1930.
The building has long since been torn down; its corner is now the site of the Greyhound bus station.
An interesting note: When Lotspeich opened his pharmacy in 1909, it was in a building that had housed pharmacies at least since the 1890s. And I suspect it was in fact the same space formerly known as DePue's, site of the most dramatic pharmaceutical event in Knoxville's political history.
In 1891, venerable Union veteran and U.S. Congressman Leonidas Houk walked into DePue's on North Central and, while waiting for a prescription, took a swig of some solution he found on the counter, seems to have contained a fatal solution of arsenic. What a glass of lethal poison was doing on a pharmacist's counter isn't obvious in the records, but the famous Republican legislator was dead the next day.
I doubt that your particular bottle was involved in that unfortunate development--but it's interesting to contemplate that Lotspeich may have dispensed this bottle on the selfsame counter.
Yr. Obt. Svt.
Z. Heraclitus Knox, E.I.E. Io.
Come one, come all! Dr. Knox answers your questions regarding the history of the Knoxville metropolis. Send all your queries, big or small, to editorATmetropulseDOTcom.