The Great Depression
winter scene from 1939
ACPHS entered the 1930s still reeling from the stock market crash of 1929, which
had serious repercussions for the school, its students and its graduates. With enrollment
down and tuition too steep for many attendees, the College struggled to attract
new students. By the fall of 1937, ACPHS had developed a four-year Bachelor of Science
in Pharmacy, hoping to increase the professionalism and prestige of the pharmacy
degree, which had suffered greatly during Prohibition.
In 1930, the population of Albany was 127,000, with 2,000-4,000 Albanians out of
work and roughly 25 percent of the population looking for jobs. At ACPHS, the numbers
mirrored what was going on all over the country. There were 150 graduates in 1928,
but only 54 students enrolled for the 1931-32 session. By graduation time, the Class
of '32 had dropped to only 38 members.
After the move to the New Scotland Avenue building in 1927, tuition had been raised
from $100 for the Ph.G. and $125 for the Ph.C. to $250 and $300, respectively, a
substantial jump. Books averaged about $52 to $65 depending on the program. But
higher tuition meant fewer students could afford to attend and the College was struggling.
A 1930 letter written by the ACPHS Alumni Association Board to Warren Bradt, President
of the ACPHS Board of Trustees, discussed the financial affairs of the College and
asked that the Board devise a way to raise funds to pay off College debt and augment
of the Class of 1931
"Despite the unemployment problem now facing the country, our 1930 grads are actively
engaged in pharmaceutical pursuits," said an article in the Mortar and Pestle .
But it wasn't easy.
During the 1920s, Ray Boles '20 had been making $3,500 a year as partner in a Chestertown,
N.Y., drugstore that sold cosmetics, Adirondack souvenirs and ice cream in addition
to "prescriptions that cost $2 to $3 tops." Boles rose at 6:00 a.m. every day to
make ice cream, crank- ing out batches every 10 minutes to make up to 40 gallons
a day. He put in 14 hour days and worked every holiday, including Christmas. In
spite of his diligence, his salary took a nosedive during the Depression, plummeting
by $1,000 a year.
And Boles was one of the lucky ones.
An article in the Mortar and Pestle claimed that "many top notch students are working
for $1,200 year." In the same article, pharmacy was called the "most unrenumerative
profession in the U.S. ," by Charles A. Smullen, a special investigator working
for the Pharmacy Bureau of Research, who visited 3,500 retail druggists in 1930.
Freshman lab, 1932
Mortar and Pestle stated that, although the profession would "never reach a peak
of prosperity as it existed prior to 1929 . a man who spends 3-4 years in College
should receive a decent minimum wage."
The grim financial picture forced many Albany residents to seek an escape from reality.
It was the golden era of movies; the Palace Theater, one of 20 movie theaters in
the city, opened in 1931 with seating for 2,800. Works Progress Administration,
created in 1935 by President Roosevelt, was responsible for a tremendous upsurge
in recreational facilities in Albany . Between 1936 and 1939, 25 public parks, skating
rinks, a golf course, Bleeker Stadium, Lincoln Park Pool and several public baths
were constructed, many of which were utilized by ACPHS students for school sports
and in their leisure time.
There was plenty to do both on- and off-campus. The activity fee of $35 covered
clubs, sports and three class dances: the Freshman and Senior Hops and the Junior
Prom. Under the direction of William Haber, the College Orchestra, a.k.a. "Banjo
Bill and his Pill Rollers," provided the music for post-basketball game dances in
the school's auditorium. Decked out with colored lights and maroon and white streamers,
the room was filled with students swaying to the strains of the latest foxtrots
and songs such as "Collegiate Sam" and "Making Whoopee."
Delta Chi fraternity, 1931
The first Press Club Whirl, a fundraising dance held in 1931, benefited a new library
at the College as well the school's other literary endeavors, Mortar and Pestle
and Alembic Pharmakon .
In their free time, students dined on "hamburg steaks at The Wagon," "almost smothered
from tobacco smoke" at Proctor's Theater, dated "St. Rose girls," "sniffed the lilacs
in back of Bender Lab," took the "night boat" from Albany to New York City and admired
"the observatory in the moonlight" (Dudley Observatory, founded 1852, was then located
across from the College).
Beginning in the fall of 1930, the new Student Council, consisting of Dean Mansfield
and two representatives from each Ph.C. and Ph.G. class, had the responsibility
for evaluating all "social, athletic and literary endeavors" and assigning funds
to each. Some, including track, cross country and the "boy's swim team," were discontinued
due to lack of interest while others, such as handball, were added. Wildly popular
in the New York City area, where thousands of courts were constructed in the five
boroughs during the 1930s, handball was introduced to the College by Willard Canfield
'32. A court for single-wall handball was created in the gym and a whopping 50 students
joined the team .
1932 ACPHS baseball team
The men's basketball, rifle and tennis teams continued to compete while the "maroon
and white sluggers" used the fields at the "Lincoln Bowl" and Ridgefield Park .
One of the school's oldest and most popular organized sports was bowling. Even after
10 years, students and faculty alike still gathered at Schade's Bowling Academy
to watch "Professor [Francis] O'Brien, with that big cigar in his mouth, throw his
famous snake snap." Toward the end of the decade, as the number of women students
began to increase, they also participated in bowling and ACPHS took up a full eight
1934 ACPHS women's
Some "girls-only" activities were voted in as well, most notably tennis and swimming.
Formed in 1933, the swim team met Tuesday evenings at the YWCA, though the yearbook
noted "no channel swimmers yet." Gertrude Ederle, who in 1926 became the first American
woman to swim the English Channel , had an enormous influence on women throughout
the country. Citing her as their inspiration, more than 60,000 women earned American
Red Cross swimming certificates during the 1920s alone.
In addition to doling out funds for activities, the Student Council also voted on
other issues, including protocol for the wearing of the mandatory "garnet and white"
caps or "beanies" worn by each freshman. After much debate it was decided that "freshmen
be permitted to remove their caps in lectures, recitations and labs but must [keep
them] with them and present [them] upon request to upperclassmen."
The 1933 freshman class,
with required beanies
The fortunes of the fraternities at the school continued to wax and wane throughout
the decade, with some becoming inactive and then revitalized depending on membership
numbers. The Alpha Theta chapter of Phi Delta Chi formed at ACPHS on April 13, 1931,
with 21 charter members. The chapter grew out of the Alpha Chapter of Epsilon Phi,
which had been established at ACPHS in 1917 but wished to nationalize. By 1936,
the group was known as Phi Delta Chi Pharmaceutical and Chemical Fraternity.
Kappa Psi Pharmaceutical Fraternity opened a new house on Mercer Street in 1931
and, by 1936, had another fraternity house in the residential section of Madison
Avenue. The "Ropes" had a busy schedule with an annual roast in the Heldeberg Mountains
and dances held in the Rainbow Room of the Kenmore Hotel or aboard the Paradise
, a boat moored in the Hudson River at Troy .
Kappa Psi house, Madison
An Interfraternity Smoker sponsored by all three frats was held in 1938 "for probably
the first time in the school's history." There was some talk of inviting Lambda
Kappa Sigma Sorority, according to the yearbook, "but it was felt it was 'for men
only' and obviously it would be a bit inappropriate." With only a few members, the
school's sole sorority sponsored more sedate activities such as Bridge Teas and
Halloween and Christmas dances. Whether they lived in a fraternity house or not,
with no residential facilities on campus most students at ACPHS rented rooms in
the city of Albany. A 1934 Mortar and Pestle survey showed 49.9 percent of students
rooming and boarding in Albany and stated that 2-6 students living together could
get by on $5 a week.
"Club Woodlawn," right in the neighborhood, was one such communal domicile that
was the site of lots of activities and parties. When funds allowed, students congregated
at the Fountain Grille and Tap Room on New Scotland Avenue or the Boulevard Cafeteria
on Central Avenue to grab a bite to eat.
Boulevard Cafeteria, 1937
Especially during the Depression, which dragged on until 1941 and the start of World
War II, many students could not afford to rent in Albany and commuted in each day,
sometimes from quite a distance.
When Russell Denegar '43 began classes at ACPHS in 1938, he commuted from Germantown
, N.Y. , by train. After arriving at Union Station in Albany , Denegar, who later
became Associate Dean of the College, hopped a trolley on Broadway and rode up Madison
Avenue to connect with the New Scotland Avenue bus. Classmates Walter Henning of
Rhinebeck and Allan MacCollam of Kingston took the same train, though MacCollam
had to take a ferry across the Hudson to catch it!
In spite of his struggle to pay his tuition, Denegar remembered that "the College
was as bad off financially as myself and was reluctant to dismiss anyone as long
as there was hope that payment might be forthcoming." Although he was sure others
were in the same predicament, it seemed to him that Miss Glavin, ACPHS's longtime
Registrar who had been with the College since 1918, "spent most of her time pursuing
In addition to the Depression, Prohibition, until its repeal in 1933, was another
issue that continued to affect ACPHS.
In an Alembic Pharmakon survey, 54 of 55 polled students did not approve of Prohibition,
which had seriously tarnished the image of pharmacists. Because they were legally
allowed to dispense alcohol, "pharmacy has attracted a large amount of pseudo-pharmacists,
many of whom were former liquor dealers" and a "stigma rests upon the entire profession,"
said a 1931 Mortar and Pestle article. Another article that same year claimed "a
pharmacist is nothing more than a dignified bootlegger."
For this reason, both students and faculty strongly felt that standards must be
raised and began to advocate for a four-year Bachelor of Science degree that "would
go a long way toward giving pharmacy the respect it should have."
By 1932, 38 states had compulsory four-year courses for pharmacy colleges. ACPHS
followed suit in 1937 and introduced its own B.S. that fall, creating a sophomore
class for the first time in the school's history. The B.S. offered more liberal
arts and sciences with history, English, psychology and sociology in the curriculum
in addition to comparative anatomy and zoology. It also fully met the requirements
for pre-med, pre-osteopathic and pre-law certificates, and strove to eliminate the
surplus of pharmacists with stricter entrance requirements.
Edwin C. Hutman '91
The courses of instruction in the new program fell into the departments of Pharmacy,
Material Medica, Chemistry and Economics, which included offerings such as pharmaceutical
sign writing, bookkeeping and commercial law. Courses in pharmaceutical and scientific
German, political science and mathematics also were added.
1937 also brought some sad changes for ACPHS, most notably the death of longtime
faculty member Edwin Cunningham Hutman '91. "Prof" Hutman taught at the College
for 35 years and, according to the yearbook, died "in the saddle" while proctoring
Hutman's death meant the temporary demise of Mortar and Pestle , as he had been
the paper's long-time advisor. It was replaced for a short time in the late '30s
by the Dame Rumour, "published biweekly by the co-eds of ACPHS-Union" and reflective
of the burgeoning number of young women at the school. In the 1938-39 academic year,
the Catalog noted that "girls who do not wish to enter the field of retail pharmacy
may prepare themselves for the position of hospital pharmacist" and a Clinical Laboratory
Technician track was added to the Pharmacy program, the precursor of the Bachelor
of Science in Medical Technology that came in the 1940s.
The program's curriculum included sterilization and media preparation, pathology,
histologic technique, bacteriology, serology, biological chemistry, urine analysis
and hematology in addition to the regular pharmacy subjects. Graduates of the program,
conducted largely at neighboring Bender Laboratory, earned the B.S. in Pharmacy
and, upon the completion of laboratory and practical hospital work, a Clinical Laboratory
The late '30s in general were a time of few activities, clubs and sports at ACPHS.
Before it stopped publishing, articles in Mortar and Pestle decried the lack of
school spirit. Even the class banquets were not well attended, perhaps due to the
cost. The activity fee was lowered from $35 to $20, probably due to the decrease
in services and the financial affairs of many students.
At ACPHS, the Orchestra, Glee Club, tennis and swimming all bit the dust during
the decade and were replaced by pastimes such as the Camera Club, Student Pharmaceutical
Association and yearly trips to the Eli Lilly plant in Indianapolis . By 1939, even
handball was gone, replaced by ping pong, made newly popular with the formation
of the U.S. Table Tennis Association in 1935. Students played in the boys' lounge
in between classes, competing against top players Arnold Shapiro and Leo Katzman.
"Everyone goes down to smoking room to watch ping pong and play the radio-victrola,"
said the yearbook.
Pharmacy Museum, 1938
One exciting new addition to the school in 1938 was the historic O.B. Throop Drugstore,
which was moved "lock, stock and barrel" from Schoharie , N.Y. , and reassembled
at ACPHS as a pharmacy museum. Located near the modern Union Pharmacy at the College,
it occasioned one writer to note that "two flights of stairs span more than a century
of the art of pharmacy." The old store, established in 1800 by Jabez W. Throop ,
had colorful show globes in the windows and was stocked with apothecary jars and
drawers filled with remedies like bloodroot and boneset. The '30s also brought several
of ACPHS's alumni into influential new roles.
Francis O'Brien '20, who had received his Master's degree in 1936 and was working
on a Ph.D. at Fordham University , was promoted to head of the Department of Pharmacy
in 1939 and eventually became ACPHS's Dean in 1943. The College's 1927 building
now bears O'Brien's name.
S. Wardle '00
Also in 1939, long-time Board of Trustees Chair Warren Lansing Bradt died and was
succeeded by Wardle had been on the ACPHS Board since 1914 and also served on the
State Board of Pharmacy and as President of the New York State Pharmaceutical Association.
ACPHS's 1956 Wardle Wing honored his decades of service to the Board.
Another ACPHS graduate made his mark not only on the College, but on the world as
well. Rudolph Blythe '31 established the first pharmaceutical laboratory in the
United States during a long career with Smith, Kline and French. He was nominated
for the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on the time-release capsule. In a classic
understatement, the 1931 yearbook noted, "Rudy has a future if he keeps on at his
present rate." In 2000, ACPHS's administrative and library wing was dedicated to
Dr. Blythe, who served as a Trustee of the school. Dr. Blythe died in July 2005
at the age of 95.
Arthur S. Wardle '00. As ACPHS entered its next decade, some of the College's most
influential leaders were sowing the seeds that would shape the school's destiny
for years to come.