‘Pestle and Mortar’ Carl Hanneman Passes the Pill-Counting Test

In the first half of the 20th century, druggists in America were often called on to literally fill prescriptions, placing medications into gelatin capsules and then counting out the order. Mauston pharmacist Carl F. Hanneman was very efficient at the task. Maybe too much so, opined The Mauston Star in a rather humorous article in December 1953.

“Joe Dziewior and this muser, watching ‘pestle and mortar’ Carl Hanneman throw a prescription together the other evening, now know why pill or capsule counting machines not not necessary to the registered pharmacist,” read the article on December 11, 1953. “With bottle in hand, Carl was pouring capsules into his hands and counting them faster than an adding machine.” 

Carl F. Hanneman taking his suits to the cleaner at Janesville, Wis., on April 5, 1926. Carl and his wife, Ruby V. Hanneman, were on their way to dinner. Carl was a druggist at McCue & Buss Drug Co. at the time.
Carl F. Hanneman taking his suits to the cleaner at Janesville, Wis., on April 5, 1926. Carl and his wife, Ruby V. Hanneman, were on their way to dinner. Carl was a druggist at McCue & Buss Drug Co. at the time. He later moved to Mauston, Wis.

Carl was the registered pharmacist at the Mauston Drug Store on Division Street in Mauston. He had been the druggist there since moving his young family to Mauston in 1936 from Wisconsin Rapids. A graduate of Marquette University, Carl started as an assistant pharmacist, but obtained his full registered pharmacist license in the 1940s.

“After watching him for some time, we entertained a doubt as to the accuracy of the counts and Joe was inclined to agree with us,” the article continued. “But Carl said he could count pills time on end and whistle a tune at the same time, and still come out the a correct count. ‘Come, come, Carl!’ we exclaimed. ‘Isn’t that pulling our leg a bit?'”

Judging by these vials from McCue & Buss Drug Co., registered pharmacists packaged both pre-made pills and medicine capsules.
Judging by Carl F. Hanneman’s vials from McCue & Buss Drug Co., registered pharmacists packaged both pre-made pills and medicine capsules.

Carl told the men a story of a “kindly old lady” who regularly came in for prescriptions and doubted the counts doled out by the druggist. “It never failed, but that after we wrapped up her prescription, she’d sit in the chair out there, undo the package and count the pills in the box,” Hanneman said. “To this day, she hasn’t demanded a recount!”

The article concluded: “Maybe registered pharmacists should be made ballot clerks. Recounts wouldn’t be necessary!”

©2014 The Hanneman Archive
Family Line: Carl F. Hanneman >> David D. Hanneman, Donn G. Hanneman and Lavonne M. (Hanneman) Wellman

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