Sandburg's Hometown

April 8, 2013


Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms

By Barbara Schock

 During the 1880s Galesburg had 22 grocery stores and 15 sample rooms (also known as saloons). Before 1850, sample rooms were public places where the public could literally taste the alcoholic stock for sale. (Today, restaurants in large cities are again offering sample menus of food to customers.) A few years later the term saloon began to appear in common usage for an establishment that served beer and liquor by the drink. After prohibition ended in 1933, the saloon word disappeared and the businesses selling alcoholic beverages became known as taverns or cocktail lounges

  Most of the grocery stores were located on Main Street east of the Public Square. The grocery businesses of the day were mostly single store fronts selling a variety of fresh, dried and canned goods. Only four were to be found in the neighborhoods south of Main Street. There were other stores which specialized in the sale of fresh meat.

 There were no groceries located north of Main Street. The residents living on Galesburg’s northern streets had their groceries delivered and hired their own cooks to prepare meals.

 Many of the vendors of alcoholic beverages were located on Prairie Street in the first block south of Main Street and on the Public Square. There were several wholesale liquor dealers: Charles Breckwald and Company on the south side of the Public Square; Frohlich, Gardt and Company at 7-11 Boone’s Avenue and S.G. Hoffheimer at 17 South Prairie. Many of the men involved in the brewing business had emigrated from Germany. They were familiar with the process of brewing and drinking beer was a common custom in families in that country.

 Druggists also sold liquor upon a doctor’s prescription. As a lad, Carl Sandburg worked for Harvey M. Craig’s drugstore. He had a key to open the store early in the morning. He swept the floors, cleaned the glass display cases and filled bottles for the pharmacist. Large carboys of acids and turpentine, as well as barrels and casks of brandy, rum and fortified wines were kept in the basement. Carl was responsible for filling smaller containers for sale upstairs in the drugstore. He did sample some of the merchandise. Some he liked and decided he must stay away from them–he didn’t quite know what they would do to him if he drank too much. The thirty-year-old rum was especially smooth and good.

Carl’s father, August Sandburg didn’t spend much money on liquor of any kind. He worked too hard for his money to throw it away by that method. The elder Sandburg was always afraid his family might suffer from want. He would do anything in his power to avoid that kind of circumstance. He was a disciplined and frugal man.

With the coming of winter, August would buy a pint of grain alcohol from one of the druggists in the city. He added a teaspoon of it to a cup of hot black coffee and sipped it slowly with much smacking of his lips. Perhaps it warmed him after a long day of wielding a sledgehammer. He would make the pint last all winter.

Of course, there were other ways of imbibing alcohol–patent medicines. They were widely advertised and relatively inexpensive. A small amount could make a person feel ever so much better.

Respectable women didn’t go into saloons, but they could purchase a bottle of Hostetter’s Bitters or Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound to sooth their nerves. Pinkham’s contained pleurisy root, fenugreek, unicorn root, black cohash and 18 percent alcohol. Hostetter’s was even more potent. Mrs. Pinkham began advertising the remedy nationally in 1875. It was sold as a product for the particular complaints of women. Alcohol does relieve muscular stress, acts as a mild pain killer and may affect an individual’s mood.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity