George Remus began his career as a pharmacist. In what ways did that job impact his later life?
George Remus’s life as a pharmacist demonstrated his wide-ranging intellect and dedication. He learned the trade “on the job,” but also took coursework to solidify his understanding of the science of that era.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, pharmacists were more like doctors (particularly in areas like suburban Chicago where there were extensive immigrant populations). Remus interacted with his customers, dispensing medical advice and treating minor ailments. He even got an optometry certification so he could be called “Dr. Remus.”
The drugstore also served as a center of the local community, so Remus became a well-known figure…and he loved the adulation that came with the title and sense of responsibility. The years in the pharmacy business were crucial in his development and self-identification.
However, the career also turned him off to medicine. He thought much of what stood in for “science” was actually quackery. Yet, at the same time, he embraced his ability to fleece the public by introducing a line of “Remus” brand pills, like others in the era (think “Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound”) that were all the rage. He sold these treatments to large drug wholesalers across the Midwest.
The money Remus made in this line of business and then opening his own drug companies enabled him to see how easily he could make money based on his smarts.
As a pharmacist, Remus also learned a great deal about the law and legal system, which would serve him well later as an attorney and bootlegger. He put this study of drug regulations and setting up pharmacies to work as a bootlegger, always searching for legal loopholes to the Volstead Act, once Prohibition became law.
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