As a 13-year-old boy growing up in Galena, Illinois, in 1836, Eugene Massot worked as “an apprentice” in the local pharmacy. At the same time, the first pharmaceutical courses were being taught by, and for, physicians at Saint Louis University Medical School. In those days, apothecaries didn’t attend classes, and there were no formal degrees in pharmacy in the Midwest.
Apprentices, like Massot, learned their craft on their own from apothecaries, during a time when anyone with a glimmer of aspiration could open a drugstore and sell home remedies and medicines. At first, apprentices would start out running errands, stocking shelves, and scrubbing floors until they learned how to compound medicine and tend to the counter—three years for most young men. Most apprentices also learned basic reading, writing, and arithmetic at night after the store closed.
After completing his apprenticeship, instead of heading back to his hometown of Shipinsport, Kentucky, Massot followed the Gold Rush to California (luckily, for the College, he didn’t strike it rich). He must have liked what he saw when he passed through St. Louis because, in 1851, he returned.
Massot opened his own drugstore in the city in 1852, the same year the American Pharmaceutical Association (APhA) was formed. He became closely involved with the national association and helped breathe new life into the St. Louis Pharmaceutical Association three years after its founding in 1857. Local apothecaries had begun to meet in the back rooms of owners’ drugstores to learn about botany, chemistry, and other pharmaceutical topics from physicians and each other. Massot, who was self-taught, wanted other apothecaries to have the education he never had.
In 1860, a committee of apothecaries and physicians was appointed by the St. Louis Pharmaceutical Association to consider opening a college of pharmacy. Massot topped the list but after the Civil War began, everything else was put on hold.
Finally, toward the end of the war, the group met again. On November 11, 1864, at 7:30 p.m., St. Louis College of Pharmacy was founded in the hall of the St. Louis Medical College. Massot, along with four other medical colleagues, went about drafting a charter, constitution, and bylaws. He was the only apothecary on the committee.
Four years later, he was in the College’s first graduating class of 17 men. After years of working to establish the College, Massot served as the first chairman of the Board of Trustees in 1864 and again after he graduated. But it took the work of Massot once more to turn a short-lived dream into full-fledged reality.
In 1869, just one year after earning his degree, Massot’s plans for St. Louis College of Pharmacy ran up against sparse student enrollment. The College was forced to suspend instruction during 1869-1870. But Massot persuaded the APhA to hold its annual convention in St. Louis in 1871 and garnered enough interest and support to boost enrollment.
In 1871, the College resumed classes. And so began the oldest college of pharmacy west of the Mississippi River. Massot died shortly thereafter, on Valentine’s Day, in 1871 at 48. He didn’t get to see the College come back into session.
Yet it was this humble, single-minded man who set the course for St. Louis College of Pharmacy’s 150-year history.