B&T headThe History of Boericke and Tafel

The Antecedents

1833: J. G. Wesselhoeft opened a German/English bookstore in three locations: New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

1835: William Radde, the head clerk in the Philadelphia store, moved to New York to manage the New York Branch. He began to offer homeopathic remedies and books for sale.

1840: J. G. Wesselhoeft moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and sold the operation of the stores to Mr. Radde.

1843: Dr. Charles Radermacher opened a homeopathic pharmacy in Philadelphia at 39. N. 4th Street.

1848: Dr. Jacob Sheek becomes a partner with Radermacher

1855: Radermacher left the business.

1858: Sheek dies. The business is purchased by William Radde, Jr. The son of Wesselhoeft's clerk.

Meanwhile, two families had emigrated from Germany: The Boericke family (Francis Oscar, Anton, and Francis Edmund) and the Tafel family, including brothers Rudolph, Gustav, Adolph J., and sister Elise.

In 1850, the 18-year-old Rudolph Tafel met Francis Edmund Boericke, and invited Boericke to assist in some English to German translating. By 1853 they opened a small bookstore, specializing in Swedenborgian literature, at 24 S. 5th in Philadelphia. Upon the suggestion of Constantine Hering, they began to manufacture and sell homeopathic remedies. Within six months of the formation of the partnership, Rudolph Tafel left to assume a teaching position at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Boericke kept the small book store, enlisting Rudolph's brother, A. J. Tafel, as an apprentice. In 1855, Tafel left for the west.

In 1857 Boericke entered the Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania, but kept his pharmacy operating. In 1862, William Radde, Jr. died, and Boericke bought the Radde pharmacy and kept it running. A. J. Tafel had returned to Philadelphia, and Boericke sold him the pharmacy at 48 N. 9th Street in 1863, keeping the Radde Pharmacy at 635 Arch St. Boericke graduated with his MD degree in 1863.

The Pharmacy of Boericke and Tafel

In 1869, F. E. Boericke and A. J. Tafel formed the partnership under the name of Boericke and Tafel. Together they bought the pharmacy and book-publishing business of William Radde in New York City. A. J. Tafel moved to New York to manage the business.

E. A. Gus Tafel

Gus Tafel

In 1883, F. E. Boericke, in ill health, retired from the partnership. A. J. Tafel formed a new partnership with F. E.'s sons, Felix and Frank. In 1901, Adolph L. Tafel, the son of A. J. Tafel, entered the business.

Through the 1970's the business was still in the hands of the Tafel Family. It was managed by Hugo (Gus) Tafel, (seen at left) the grandson of the founder.

The publicity and letterhead has always stated "Since 1835"-- which is the date of the founding of the Radde pharmacy in NYC, which was purchased by Boericke in 1862.

The Other Branches

Over the years, Boericke and Tafel maintained branches in many cities across the United States. They were staffed by experienced pharmacists, many of whom had worked with Boericke and Tafel "since boyhood." Some of these branch pharmacies were eventually sold to the staff (Minneapolis, formed in 1889 at 416 Nicollet, was sold to Babendreier & Van Nest in 1891; Washington, DC, formed in 1884, was sold to Roberts in 1889, and then to Miss C. V. Dorman who, in turn, sold to it to B. Furr in 1927. It was still run by Mr. Furr's son Ed in 1991 when it was sold to Joe Lillard. It is still open as Washington Homeopathic Products in Bethesda, MD.)

In about 1890, William Boericke formed a partnership with E. W. Runyon, in San Francisco, and formed the company of Boericke and Runyon.

Edward Wheelock Runyon was born in Chicago in 1851. He was a postmaster to the Ohio Regiment during the Civil War. He went to California in 1887, met William Boericke, and returned to the east coast to get a degree from the New York College of Pharmacy in 1893. He was the president of Boericke and Runyon in New York City from 1908 until his death at age 86 on December 17, 1937.

In 1914, B&T listed eleven pharmacies in operation: three in Philadelphia, three in New York, two in Chicago, one each in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Cincinnati.

By 1915 one of the Chicago stores had closed.

By 1919 the Baltimore branch closed.

Sometime during 1920, the branch at 125 S. 11th St. in Philadelphia, closed.

Sometime during 1923, the 145 Grand St. branch in NYC closed.

In early 1926 the branch at 634 Columbus Ave. in NYC closed.

During the summer of 1926, the NYC office moved from 145 W. 43rd to 109 W. 48th.

At the same time the Pittsburgh branch moved from 410 6th Ave. to 500 6th Ave. In late 1927, it moved again to 135 7th St.

At about the same time the Chicago branch moved from 116 N. Wabash to 211 North State Street.

By 1930 the Philadelphia store at 29 S. 7th st. was closed.

In 1930 only 6 branches were left: Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati.

In February, 1942, Clarence Aiken, the manager of the B&T branch in Cincinnati died. By July 1942, the branch ceased operation.

Sometime during the 1940s Boericke and Runyon were sold to Humphreys Pharmacal, and became a division of that company.

Little is known about the closings of the New York, Chicago, and Pittsburgh branches of the firm. The Boericke and Tafel ads through the 1950s give prominent mention to the three other branches. The last ad mentioning them was in the July/August issue of the Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy in 1961. By the September/October issue, the branches were no longer mentioned.

At the same time, Boericke and Runyon were acquired from Humphreys and merged with Boericke and Tafel.

The Purchase and Move

In 1988 the company was bought by VSM in Holland, a subsidiary of the Willmar Schwabe Group. In January 1992 the business at 1011 Arch Street, which had been at that location since 1880, moved to Santa Rosa, California.

The information here was gleaned from a memorial of F. E. Boericke by John Pitcairn; an article "Boericke and Tafel's Homeopathic Pharmacies" from the Homeopathic Recorder, 1893, pages 66-69; assorted copies of Jottings-- a trade publication of B&T; and conversations with Gus Tafel.

©2000 Julian Winston