Dragon’s blood, unicorn root, opium—you name it—this apothecary in Alexandria, Virginia, had it all.
Founded in 1792 by Edward Stabler and remaining within the same Quaker family for generations, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary is considered one of Alexandria’s oldest continuously operating businesses that combined retail, wholesale, and manufacturing.
After a successful 141 year run that saw customers like Martha Washington, Robert E. Lee, and local folk alike, the apothecary declared bankruptcy in 1933 and closed its doors when it could no longer compete with commercial pharmacies and synthetic drug companies.
Shortly thereafter, a Baltimore ice cream merchant named L. Manuel Hendler purchased the archives and contents of the store at auction, later donating them to the Landmarks Society of Alexandria, which purchased the two buildings on South Fairfax Street.
It now operates as a museum open to the public, with original ingredients in original bottles lining the shelves on the main floor, and drawers full of various plants and herbs upstairs, where most of the medicines were concocted on-site. Journals, prescription and formula books, ledgers, and invoices are also part of the archives.