The Herbst Pharmacy, Fred J. Herbst, proprietor

by Douglas Marshall-Steele 



Fred wore a fez-like cap strictly for warmth.

For over four decades, from 1902 until his death in 1943, Fred John Herbst served as pharmacist, and more so, to the people of Milford, Pike County, Penna., and the larger area.  

Fred was the eldest of four children, born in 1872 after his parents, Theodore and Anna Marie Wilken Herbst, emigrated from Germany in 1870 and 1871 respectively and settled in Honesdale, Wayne County, Penna. Little is known of his childhood, except that he contracted diphtheria—and for the rest of his life, Fred blamed his baldness on that illness.

Aspiring to a vocation beyond that of his father, who was first an ice dealer and then a cartman, Fred attended the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. There he received his degree in pharmacology, and met his future wife, Leanna Sheppard. In 1899 Fred and Leanna married and moved to White Lake, N.Y., in the Catskills. Their thinking was that the clean mountain air would be beneficial for Leanna, who had a history of tuberculosis. Their first of five children, Margaret, was born there in 1900.

Compounding drugs old-school.

Fred with daughters Margaret and Marion at their camp in “the Glen,” Milford.

In 1902 the Herbsts moved to another mountain town, this time in the Poconos, Milford, which was nearer their respective families in Philadelphia and Honesdale. 

In downtown Milford, Fred established the F. J. Herbst Pharmacy at 403 Broad Street, but in time the business was moved to 312 Broad Street. In 1923 the business was finally relocated to 317 Broad Street.

Postcard depicting the F. J. Herbst Pharmacy at 312 Broad St., the second of the three locations. Fred is the leftmost standing adult. The small curb sign depicts a mortar and pestle, a centuries-old symbol of a pharmacy, but also tools Fred and Marion used extensively on a daily basis.    

Pike County Press, 1909.

Blesssed be those that 
buy "America" Alarms, 
for they will praise them.   
Every "America" I sell, 
sells another, for 
every man I sell, tells another.
They  make me lots of 
friends; that's why I can 
offer them for
89 cents each 
Guaranteed for 1 year, good for 10. 


The drug store heavily featured Rexall products, but also cameras and film, tobacco products, talcum powder, fountain pens, stationary, paperback books, boxed candy, and compounded drugs. Fred’s newspaper advertising often informed or reminded the reader that the prescriptions were compounded by a graduate in pharmacy. A sign on the building itself also proclaimed as much.  There was also a soda fountain featuring Fred’s homemade ice cream, which was well renowned—but the recipe was not, it being a well-guarded family secret.

This interior was at 312 Broad St., the second of the three locations in Milford.

The soda fountain was popular due to Fred’s secret-recipe ice cream. This interior was at 317 Broad St.

Fred's post luncheon catnap.

Fred was widely known as “Doc Herbst” in the community, that is, except to most family members, who called him “Pop,” and to his grandchildren, who called him “Granddaddy.” His habit was to wear a fez-like cap, which, perhaps together with his surname, caused some to mistake him as Jewish. In fact, the Herbsts were Presbyterian and the cap was just to keep his bald head warm. At night he wore a stocking cap.

Fred’s wife, Leanna Sheppard Herbst.

Fred and Leanna’s four younger children, Marion, Harry, Emma and Fred Jr., were all born in Milford. At their 312 Broad Street home above the drug store, there was only one bedroom, which was reserved for Leanna and the current baby. Fred and the other children slept outside on the porch, which was in any case thought to be a healthy practice—but Marion recalled actually shaking the snow off her covers upon awaking on winter mornings. Their 317 Broad Street drug store and home by contrast had rooms for everybody. Nine-year-old Emma, used to sleeping outside, at first declared she could not sleep all closed in, so was given a room that was all windows.

Fred’s daughter Marion, first woman pharmacist in Pike County.

As a young girl, Marion worked for her father. On one occasion while her father was out, she decided to play tennis in the drug store. The sad result was a severe knee injury with which Marion lived for the rest of her life—and the experience was used by this writer’s mother as an example of what happens when children do what they are not supposed to do. (Accordingly, this writer has never played tennis in any drug store.)

Nonetheless Marion went on to attend her father’s alma mater and became the first woman pharmacist in Pike County. She worked with her father in the drug store for 19 years, and in later years she compared the compounding of medications that she and her father had done with the duties of pharmacists nowadays: “All they do is count pills.”

Fred died of a stroke in 1943 and the business was sold to pharmacist Richard Williams, who operated it until his retirement in the 1950s. 


Douglas Marshall-Steele is the great great grandson of Theodore Herbst and his wife Anna Marie Wilkin Herbst, and thus is the great grandson of Fred John Herbst and his wife Leanna Sheppard Herbst. Fred and Leanna’s eldest child was Margaret Cecilia Herbst, who married Clinton Davenport Wolfe. Margaret and Clinton’s eldest child was Leanna Margaret Wolfe Steele, who was the writer’s mother. 

"The Herbst Pharmacy, Fred J. Herbst, proprietor" (c) 2016, Douglas Marshall-Steele.  All rights reserved.  Comments may be addressed to:  douglas.marshallsteele at gmail dot com  

Advertisement from the Pike County Press, Milford, Pa., John Hixson Van Etten, Editor, 1895-1924, courtesy Chronicling America.  

Explore more of Douglas' family member biographies and vintage photographs through this collection of memorials on The Herbst Family and The Wolfe Family.