B. Ruppe Drugs, Downtown's oldest pharmacy, left behind an absolutely fascinating archive.

We spent a couple hours at the National Hispanic Cultural Center sorting through a century's worth of papers, photos, and memories from this institution, born in Old Town and raised in Barelas. Here's what we found.
Maclovia Zamora, the last proprietor of B. Ruppe Drugs, memorialized here in a mural on the side of the building where she worked.
Just over a year ago, Anna Uremovich, an archivist at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, got a fateful phone call: The remodel crews would arrive at the building formerly home to B. Ruppe Drugs in two days, but before that, would she be interested in carting off the assembled notebooks, cards, thank you notes, photos, clippings, books, magazines, recipes, religious articles, conference badges, legal papers, bank statements, and scraps of poetry that were still lying around on the floors, on tables, or tucked into shoe boxes? 

There was only one possible answer. Uremovich got to work, hauled away something north of 30 boxes, then commenced organizing what is now officially the B. Ruppe Drugs Collection into a rough inventory.


You wouldn't expect a neighborhood drug store to have such a fascinating history, but there it is in black and white - documents going back at least 110 of its nearly 140 year history.  

Bernard Ruppe showed up in Old Town not long after the railroad arrived in 1880, though despite that technological advance, he arrived on a burro. According to a historical white paper of unknown authorship tucked into collection, the German-American soon found work with a local druggist whom he eventually bought out, opening his very own shop on Old Town Plaza in 1883. He was a prominent Elk and served in the Spanish American War, World War One, and with the expedition that chased Pancho Villa southward in retaliation for his 1916 attack on Columbus. 


Skip ahead to the mid-1980s, and B. Ruppe Drugs had move to 4th in Barelas. It's proprietors were Tom Sanchez and his sister-in-law, Maclovia Zamora. Their shop was that rare place where western and traditional medicine co-exist (peacefully, so far as we know). You could bring your M.D.'s prescription there and they took insurance, but Zamora was also a curandera and would happily talk through your options for herbal remedies, tinctures, teas, and whatever else customers needed. 

Over the years, Zamora became something of a rock star figure. People visited from all over to ask for advice. She was recognized by the Smithsonian. And she's now memorialized in a mural on the side of the B. Ruppe building at 4th and Hazledine. Few pharmacists can say the same. 


These days, the building is getting a new lease on life under its new owner, the nonprofit organization Homewise, which is hosting an open house tomorrow evening. And just a few weeks ago, Uremovich finished that inventory and opened the archives up to researchers. DAN, naturally, was first in line. Here's what we found: 
From 1906, this appears to be some sort of note related to a prescription. It seems incomprehensible writing in this profession is not a recent invention.
An account ledger from 1925.
As with many items in the collection, we can't say for sure what this is all about, but it appears to be some legal paperwork - from 1939 - dealing with the estate of Bernard Ruppe. According to the historical white paper mentioned in the introduction, Albert Alarid bought the store from Ruppe's heirs in 1951.
From the late 1940s, an account booklet from Albuquerque National Bank. A note "to our patrons" at the beginning of the booklet announces that "Married ladies and children may have accounts in their own names." 
From a more modern era, this appears to be some kind of herbal inventory or shopping list, noting three units of arnica, three of comfrey, and four of Saint John's wort.
This seems to have been dashed off, as though it were notes rather than formal directions. But it appears to refer to some kind of ritual: "Stop (or suspend) the candle with the wick (one of DAN's long-time Barelas resident neighbors figured 'mecha' actually referred to a match) in front in the direction of the #1 arrow. With a pen put the words (hidden and nameless enemies) inside the candle in the direction of the #1 arrow in the diagram."
Maclovia Zamora's ministrations attracted attention far and wide. Here, a resident of Juneau, Alaska writes in 1993 to inquire about herbs that help with sleep and nerves.
Zamora received quite a few thank you notes over the years. This one, from 1998, lists a return address in the ethnology department at a German university
Fan mail also came from more local sources. This is one of several thank-you cards from what seems to have been a visiting group of students. "I didn't know there was a cure for almost everything, and mostly using the herb," 12-year-old Estefania wrote. 
Quite a bit of poetry, like this meditation on love, is preserved in the archives, though we don't know who wrote it.
This card is notable for its randomness. Line one is "Poisons are ingested - fish mushrooms." The last part is a quote from the writer John Ruskin: "The essence of lying is in the deception, not in the words."
Not all of Zamora's recipes were medicinal. This one is for honey whole wheat rolls. 
It appears that the shop kept these sorts of note-card references on hand. This scalp massage mixture made with nettles and onions seems to have been just the ticket for hair loss.
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