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Charles Walgreen

AKA Charles Rudolph Walgreen

Born: 9-Oct-1873
Birthplace: Galesburg, IL
Died: 11-Dec-1939
Location of death: Chicago, IL
Cause of death: Cancer - Prostate

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Business

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Founder of Walgreen Co.

Military service: 1st Illinois Volunteer Cavalry (Spanish-American War)

When his father, Carl Magnus Olofsson, came to America from Sweden, the family name was changed to Walgreen. As a teenager, Charles Walgreen worked as an errand boy at a drug store, but was fired for refusing to shovel snow. After high school he attended Dixon Business College, and briefly worked as a bookkeeper. Next up was an ill-fated stint at a shoe factory, where a stitching machine took off the tip of the middle finger on his left hand.

Then Walgreen trained as a pharmacist, working in a succession of small establishments. After a year in the Army, he wound up in a tiny south Chicago drug store, which he bought (with $2,000 borrowed from his father) from Issac W. Blood in 1902. He opened a second store in 1909, and by 1916 owned nine drug stores, which he incorporated as Walgreen Co. In a time when doctors' prescriptions were mixed and filled on the spot, Walgreen began formulating large batches of his own medicines, allowing his stores to sell the drugs at a lower price than competitors. Walgreens was one of the first chains to carry non-pharmaceuticals as a mainstay of the store's retail selection. Walgreens offered low-priced lunch counters, built its own ice cream factory, and introduced the "malted milk shake" in 1922.

Under Walgreen's leadership the company prospered even during the Depression, while his chief rival, United Drug, went into bankruptcy. Hubert Humphrey's father owned several drug stores, and was an early Walgreens franchisee. As a boy, Ronald Reagan briefly worked as Walgreen's golf caddy. After Walgreen's death in 1939, the $500,000 payout from his life insurance policy was used to establish a pension plan for the company's employees.

A fervent anti-Communist, Walgreen made national headlines in 1935, when, after his niece mentioned that her social science coursework at the University of Chicago included books about Soviet Russia, he demanded an investigation by the state legislature. Roiled in controversy, the school broke out in violent protests over academic freedom. The investigation concluded that "nothing in the teachings or schedule of the school can be held to be subversive", and Walgreen apparently did not hold a grudge -- two years later he gave the University half a million dollars to establish the Walgreen Foundation for Study of American Institution.

Father: Carl Magnus Olofsson (name changed to Walgreen)
Mother: Ellen Olson Walgreen
Brother: Edwin Walgreen
Sister: Clementine Walgreen (stenographer)
Wife: Myrtle Ruth Norton (m. 18-Aug-1902)
Son: Charles Walgreen, Jr. (Walgreens President from 1939-63, b. 4-Mar-1906, d. 10-Feb-2007)
Daughter: Charlotte Ruth Walgreen Dart Stephan (poet, married and divorced Justin Dart)

    High School: Dixon High School, Dixon, IL (1889)
    University: Dixon Business College

    Walgreens Founder and CEO (1909-39)
    Freemasonry
    Coma Siboney, Cuba (1898)
    Swedish Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Amputee, Malaria


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