The Close of the 19th Century
Dr. Tucker, left, in the Chemistry
Lab, circa 1894
ACPHS entered its second decade with an 1891 address given for the 11th Lecture
Course by the President of the Faculty, Willis G. Tucker, M.D., Ph.D., who spoke
about "Some Educational Problems" affecting the College.
"Teachers labor under disadvantages," he said. Chief among them was that "most pupils
devote a considerable share of their time to their employers," as students apprenticed
in local pharmacies and attended classes only in the evenings and on weekends.
It was a tough life. Reed Sauter, M.D., Class of 1891, remembered that he enjoyed
ACPHS because he "could get away from the cleaning, sweeping, manufacture of soda
water and ice cream, and numerous other duties that a drug clerk was made to perform."
Arthur Davenport '96 recollected that he worked for $7 a week at a pharmacy in Watervliet
all through his two years at the College.
In his 1891 presentation, Dr. Tucker went on to talk about the steady growth in
both enrollment and curriculum. The Class of 1890 had been the largest class yet
- 69 students - and requirements for lecture and lab courses had more than doubled
Pharmaceutical Lab, 1892
The College was growing in other ways as well.
The Pharmaceutical Laboratory was refitted in 1891 and a Pharmacy Lab course was
added with Frank P. Huested appointed as head in 1892. By 1899, the lab had outgrown
its space and a new Pharmaceutical Lab was outfitted downtown at Maiden Lane and
North Pearl Street . Each student had one day per week to practice their skills
in the use of the balance, thermometer and hydrometer; the manufacture of tinctures,
emulsions, pills, capsules, ointments and plasters; and the application of direct
and steam heat.
Other new facilities included a reading room with current pharmaceutical journals,
a Pharmacognosy room with almost 300 specimens of drugs and chemicals and a Chemistry
Seniors could take Practical Microscopy taught by Andrew McFarlane, M.D., of Albany
Medical College for an additional $10 fee. Walton Sanderson '98 recalled that the
Microscopial Laboratory was on the top floor adjoining the Dissecting Laboratory
and the doors between them were always open as "it was a poor place for a weak stomach."
As the College changed from oral to written exams, a Quiz Class was added, at a
cost of $5 for the session, so that faculty could test their students' progress
on a regular basis.
Van Aken '84
New instructors also were added and by the 1895-96 session there were eight, including
two alumni from the 1880s. Frank Richardson '84 began teaching Materia Medica in
1893 and became Director of the Pharmacy Lab in 1895. De Baun Van Aken '84, who
was also president of the Alumni Association, was hired to teach Chemistry and Pharmacy
and became Secretary of the school in 1896.
The 10th Commencement in 1891 was held at Jermain Hall. The entertainment featured
"La Traviata," performed by Holdings Orchestra, and a "Plantation Sketch," similar
to those made popular by Joel Chandler Harris, whose Uncle Remus stories had debuted
An annual Alumni Banquet was held on the evening of Commencement at local restaurants
such as the Delavan House and Keeler's, with prices ranging from $1.50 to $3 a plate.
Delicacies on the menu throughout the 1890s included old favorites such as green
turtle soup, sweetbread croquettes, golden plover, terrapin a la Maryland, broiled
quail and blue winged teal duck, followed by cigars (with $11 provided in the budget
for this most-coveted postprandial treat).
There followed reports of several committees and the historian before the "necrology,"
a listing of deceased alumni, was read. The business portion of the evening closed
with a substantial Alumni Prize of $20 awarded for the year's best student thesis,
on topics that ranged from cod liver oil to rhubarb to belladonna. By the end of
the decade, the prize money went to the student with the best exam as the Alumni
Association felt it was "too difficult to choose" a winner.
The banquets also featured "a toast list of the first quality," and comic recitations
by both alumni and faculty were washed down with copious quantities of Roman Punch.
This popular 19th-century drink, a frothy concoction of champagne, rum, lemonade,
orange juice and egg whites, was quite potent and undoubtedly added to the hilarity
of the evening!
1891 Albany Chemical
ACPHS wound up the decade on a more sober note.
The United States declared war on Spain in April 1898 following the sinking of the
battleship U.S.S Maine in Havana , Cuba . Albany responded to the war with jingoistic
fervor due to the fact that Albany Academy graduate Charles Dwight Sigsbee was in
command of the ship at the time.
For ACPHS Professor Gustavus Michaelis, Ph.G., the war had a more direct connection.
Albany Chemical Co., which Michaelis had founded in 1881, instituted round-the-clock
shifts and doubled its production of a substance used to make gunpowder.
The short-lived Spanish-American War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris
on December 10, 1898. At the 1899 Alumni Association meeting, it was noted for the
record that 12 members of the Association had fought in the war.