Carl’s Heartfelt 1937 Plea for a Brighter Future

Just three weeks after becoming a father for the third time, young pharmacist Carl. F. Hanneman took the extraordinary step of writing to the attorney general of Wisconsin to ask that he be granted full licensure as a registered pharmacist. It was a heartfelt letter, written by a young man feeling the weight of responsibility of a wife and three children. Written by a well-educated and accomplished man who felt he deserved what he as asking. The very future was at stake.

“I am writing this letter in all sincerity as what I am about to ask means everything to myself as well as my wife and three little kiddies,” Carl wrote to Attorney Gen. Orland S. Loomis on Sept. 3, 1937. “I am 35 years old and will be 36 this coming October and feel that obtaining my full registered papers will mean life itself to myself and my dear family.” 

Carl explained that he was fully licensed as an assistant pharmacist, working at the Mauston Drug Store owned by Dr. J.S. Hess Jr. But he was unable to officially manage the drug store due to a quirk in state law.

Wisconsin Attorney Gen. Orland S. Loomis
Wisconsin Attorney Gen. Orland S. Loomis of Mauston

If Carl had worked in a smaller town with under 500 population, he  could have legally managed the pharmacy. But Mauston population was about 2,100. Carl would need to be a registered pharmacist in order to  manage the Mauston Drug Store. 

“My capacity in the drug store is as an unofficial manager, as I do all of the buying etc., but legally cannot manage the store,” Carl wrote. “Dr. J.S. Hess Jr. has confidence in me and I a great deal in him, and as far as I am concerned am willing to stay here the rest of my life, dispensing for our own doctors.”

Carl reasoned that if he was qualified to own and manage a pharmacy in a small town (such as neighboring Lyndon Station, pop. 236), why could he not serve the same capacity in Mauston? “I have often wondered as has many others, are not the lives of 500 people in a small town just as valuable to their loved ones as those living in a town where there might be more than this amount?” Carl wrote. 

A label under glass from Carl F. Hanneman's pharmacy collection.
A label under glass from Carl F. Hanneman’s pharmacy collection.


By 1937, Carl had 16 years of experience in pharmacology, starting as an apprentice in 1921 at the Sam Church drug store in Wisconsin Rapids. Carl graduated from the pharmacy program at Marquette University in 1925 and became licensed as an assistant pharmacist. He wasn’t eligible to take the full pharmacist exam at the time because his apprenticeship fell just short of the required five years. Over the next decade he worked at drug stores in Janesville, Fond du Lac and Wisconsin Rapids, and even worked a three-year stint as a salesman for Consolidated Water Power & Paper Co.

“I knew my lifework was with the drug store as I truly love it and was very fortunate in securing a position with the Dr. Hess Hospital, Clinic and Drug Store organization on Feb. 1, 1936,” Carl wrote.

Carl said he would likely need three more years of study to pass the registered pharmacist board exams as they existed in 1937. With three children (including baby Lavonne born in August 1937), Carl figured that simply would not be possible. So he asked for help from Loomis, a Mauston native who served as city attorney from 1922 to 1931. Loomis was attorney general through 1938, and was elected governor of Wisconsin in 1942. He died before taking office. Eventually, Carl became good friends with Loomis and photographed him for the Wisconsin State Journal on the 1942 night of  his election as governor of Wisconsin. 

Carl F. Hanneman's registered pharmacist license, issued in July 1944.
Carl F. Hanneman’s registered pharmacist license, issued in July 1944.


We don’t know if Loomis ever intervened on Carl’s behalf in his role as attorney general or governor-elect, or how he responded to the 1937 letter. A search of Loomis’ law-practice records at the Wisconsin Historical Society yielded no clues. Carl’s 1941 license from the Wisconsin State Board of Pharmacy still lists him as an assistant pharmacist. On July 12, 1944, the state of Wisconsin issued an ornate document certifying Carl as a full registered pharmacist. He worked under the new license number until his death in 1982. It would appear Carl secured his added credentials the hard way: he earned them.

©2014 The Hanneman Archive

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