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The Oldest Drug Store in Town (part 2)

When Frank B. Lovell took over the F.Z. Kimball & Co. drug store in the 1880’s, he became the head of a business established over a decade earlier. Little did he know this business would still be in operation over 100 years later.

Frank B. Lovell was born in 1861 in Onarga, Iroquois County, Illinois, a town about half-way between Kankakee and Champaign along today’s Interstate 57. In 1860, the population of Onarga was 1,423 – about the same population it has today. His father, Henry M. Lovell and mother, Julia Blodget [Blodgett] Lovell, owned a farm where Frank and his older sister, Grace, grew up.

In 1887 Frank Lovell and Augusta Messer, also of Onarga, were married. Sources vary on when the couple moved to Libertyville and took over the Kimball business, but by 1888, F.B. Lovell and Co. is listed in the Druggist’s Directory of the United States and Canada. It is unclear whether Lovell had any formal education in pharmacy. A 1903 profile of him stated, “Mr. Lovell commenced the study of his profession at an early age and has been in the harness for twenty-seven years.”28 Yet he was referred to as “A graduate of the school of experience and having the confidence of the medical fraternity and the general public, Mr. Lovell’s career has  been along the lines of broad, liberal expansion.”28

F.B. Lovell & Co., circa 1910

F.B. Lovell and Co. was a typical drugstore of the era, filling prescriptions and selling an array of other goods such as “Ada’s Tutti-Frutti”, cigars, musical instruments, paint, stationary, and books. The pharmacy was described as “entirely metropolitan, the arrangement of the interior, of the shelvings and of the stock, all bespeaking the modern and the up-to-date.”28 Lovell was well respected. The newspaper stated “Lovell always shows rare taste in his selection of goods, A child can buy as cheap as the oldest man as you can depend on fair treatment at the Libertyville Drug Store.”21

Interior of Lovell Drug Store around 1903. Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society collection.
Circa 1890s. Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society.
Lake County Independent, December 24, 1894, p. 8.
Lake County Independent, March 30, 1900, p.6.

On the evening of August 30-31, 1895, a fire broke out behind the Schanck hardware store on the northeast corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Sprague Street (now Cook Ave). The fire destroyed almost the entire block to the north and jumped across the street to the south threatening nearby buildings. Concerned the fire would reach the Lovell building, Lovell and friends tried to save an expensive marble counter top. They wrestled it out the front door and across the street only to have it break when they set it to the ground. The fire never reached the Lovell building, though it did burn the Triggs market building one door north.

Lovell medicine bottle. Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society collection.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Lovell always looked to improve his business and offerings. In 1896 he ordered a soda fountain and in 1897 was “papering and renovating the room back of his drug store preparatory to putting in a stock of glass, paints, etc.”23

Something else was afoot at the drug store in the late 1890s. The first telephone line in Libertyville was established in 1898 after the Village Board granted a permit to F.B. Lovell and Fletcher Clark. Under the auspices of the Lake County Telephone Company, the switchboard was located in the basement of the Lovell drug store and later in the rear of the store. Mrs. Earl Corlett and Miss Effie Butterfield were a few of the first telephone operators. By 1903, the company serviced over 200 subscribers.

Lake County Independent, February 11, 1898, p.5

By 1900, Frank and Augusta had 4 boys – Harold, Wendell, Kenneth, and Clarence – and had built a home on Park Place. Daughter Florence would join them in 1902. Edna Shapter, servant, and James H. Swan, druggist, were also living with the family. Mr. Swan will enter our story again a little later.

Frank and Augusta Lovell. Courtesy of the Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society.

By 1910, Mr. Lovell was suffering from Bright’s disease (known today as acute or chronic nephritis). While traveling back from Florida where he and Mrs. Lovell had spent the winter, his condition worsened. He returned to Libertyville under the care of local doctors, but did not recover. He passed away in late April 1910.

Newspaper editor Frank H. Just was effusive in his praise. Lovell was lauded for his business ventures, his dedication to the community (including his service as a village trustee and village treasurer) and his love for his family. “In the passing Libertyville loses one whose place will not be filled. We are better for having known him, as a city we are reimbursed because of his citizenship. He was so much, did so much and gave so much, there is created a void we contemplate with heads bowed in sorrowful acknowledgement of what this unassuming, kindly man meant to Libertyville, our social life and to his family.”29

In the following week’s newspaper, local businessman Max Kohner wrote: “Frank was a man in largest, fullest, grandest sense of the word…a thorough businessman, a public spirited citizen who was ever willing to spend his time and his money for the common good, always ready with a word and with deed to help a neighbor in an emergency, with all his great talents and sterling qualities which are vouchsafed to few he was the most unostentatious and unassuming man imaginable.”30

Within a few weeks of his death, an inventory of the stock was done and a new company created – the F.B. Lovell Company – owned by Frank’s widow, Augusta Lovell, and James Swan, the druggist who had been living with the Lovell family in 1900. The newspaper reported that a Mr. Decker, Mr. Lovell, and Mr. Forebrich would be assisting Mr. Swan. (These are most likely Harold Lovell, Frank and Augusta’s oldest son, and Will Decker and Charles Forbricht who were lodging with the Lovell family in the 1910 Census.)

Born February 23, 1875 in Ivanhoe, James Swan came to Libertyville in 1898 at age 23 to work as a clerk at Lovell’s. With several years of experience under his belt, Swan took over an Antioch pharmacy from W.T. Hill in 1903.

James Swan. Courtesy of Hobart “Skip” Krafft Swan.
Antioch News, November 26, 1903. Courtesy of the Lakes Region Historical Society.
Antioch News, May 26, 1904. Courtesy of Lakes Region Historical Society.

During his tenure in Antioch, he married Mattie Wright (1904) and the couple had two children – son Hobart and daughter Gladys. Swan ran the Antioch store until 1910 when the opportunity arose to partner with Mrs. Lovell in Libertyville.

While under Swan’s leadership, the Lovell drug store advertised the sale of phonographs, chicken feed, French Ivory Toilet Articles, and ice cream. It also served as a place to purchase tickets to local entertainments such as the play “The Girl and the Tramp” put on at The Auditorium [located in the upper floors of the First National Bank Building (above Starbuck’s in 2019)] and the St. Lawrence Episcopal Church’s “The Frolics of 1917.”

James’s son, Hobart W. Swan, followed in his father’s footsteps and worked in the store for a time in the early 1930s. Some time after Hobart was certified as an Assistant Pharmacist, he began working at Krafft’s Drug Store in Lake Forest, which was run by his father-in-law, Carl F. Krafft. He retired as president of Krafft’s Drug Store in 1970 and passed away in 1976.

Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society collection
Lake County Independent, July 24, 1914, p8.
Libertyville Independent, December 20, 1917, p5.

Swan continued Lovell’s legacy of community involvement. He was very active in the Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society and the Men’s Garden Club with which he helped install the Cook Park rose garden.  Mr. Swan volunteered at his church, in one case serving as head waiter for the 1917 First Presbyterian Church annual meeting and dinner which that year was completely run by the men of the congregation to take the burden from the women. Swan was elected president of the Libertyville Boy Scout Council when it was formed in 1921. Mr. Swan’s grandson, Hobart “Skip” Krafft Swan remembers his grandfather as “a gentle soul who loved the natural world.  He was an avid birder, fisherman and a collector of sea shells, having amassed an impressive and meticulously displayed and cataloged collection acquired during vacation trips to Florida’s Gulf Coast over many years.”51

Augusta Lovell. Courtesy of Libertyville Masonic Lodge #492.

The level of involvement in the business by co-owner Augusta Lovell is unknown. However, we do know that Augusta Lovell was also community minded. She served as a Worthy Matron and treasurer of the Order of the Eastern Star (the women’s auxiliary of the Masons) and served on the grammar school board. Mrs. Lovell died January 30, 1939.

James Swan continued to run the store, but when he suffered a leg fracture keeping him in the hospital for at least six weeks in early 1940, he may have started the search for a buyer of the Libertyville institution. James Swan and Harold Lovell, administrator of his mother’s estate, sold the store to Frank J. Wenban of Lake Forest at the end of March 1940 for a reported $7,000 [a little over $128,000 in 2019 dollars]. Mr. Swan continued to live in Libertyville at his home at 309 Homewood Drive until his death in 1957.

Mr. Wenban, a graduate of Lake Forest Academy, worked for Dr. French’s pharmacy in Lake Forest from 1902 until 1914 and then opened his own drug store. Wenban operated that store until 1922 when he partnered with Willis W. Griffis to buy out Dr. French’s business and start the Wenban-Griffis Drug Store. The collaboration ended in 1939 when Wenban sold his interest to Griffis.

Wenban Drug Store on Deerpath, Lake Forest. Courtesy of the History Center of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff

Not ready to hang up his pharmacist’s jacket, Wenban took ownership of F.B. Lovell Co. in time for the printing of the 1940 Libertyville Township High School yearbook.

The Nautilus, Libertyville Township High School, 1940
Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society collection


Mr. Wenban kept the F.B. Lovell name over the door throughout his ownership in the 1940s. Towards the end of that decade, another pharmacist, Louis Petranek, would enter the picture. In the next post, we will look at the end of the F.B. Lovell Co. era and the beginning of Petranek’s.



  1. “F.B. Lovell arrived from Atlanta, GA.” Lake County Independent, April 22, 1910, p.5.
  2. “3 Leading Pioneers Die Here.” Independent Register, August 15, 1957, p.1.
  3. F.B. Lovell advertisement. Lake County Independent, April 30, 1915, p.3.
  4. F.B. Lovell advertisement. Lake County Independent, May 5, 1915, p.5.
  5. F.B. Lovell advertisement. Lake County Independent, December 3, 1915, p.4.
  6. The Girl and the Tramp advertisement. Lake County Independent, March 27, 1914, p.5.
  7. F.B. Lovell advertisement. Lake County Independent, December 20, 1917. p.5.
  8. “Business Men vs. High School.” Lake County Independent, October 23, 1914, p.4.
  9. “Annual Congregational Meeting and Supper.” Libertyville Independent, April 19, 1917, p.5.
  10. “James Swan”. 1910 U.S. Census for Libertyville, IL. Library Edition. Accessed July 26, 2019.
  11. “James Hobart Swan.” Willard Genealogy: sequel to Willard Memoir. Library  Edition. Accessed July 26, 2019.
  12. “Hobart Swan.” Independent Register, January 29, 1976, p.5A.
  13. Libertyville. Waukegan City Directories. Library Edition. 1901, 1903, 1905, 1908, 1913, 1916, 1922, 1925.
  14. “H.M. Lovell.” 1860 U.S. Census for Onarga, Illinois. Library  Edition. Accessed April 28, 2019.
  15. “Frank Lovell.” 1870 U.S. Census for Onarga, Illinois. Library  Edition. Accessed April 28, 2019.
  16. “Frank Lovell.” 1880 U.S. Census for Onarga, Illinois. Library  Edition. Accessed January 6, 2018.
  17. “Frank Lovell.” Illlinois, County Marriage Records, 1800-1940. Library  Edition. Accessed April 28, 2019.
  18. Caspar’s Directory of the American Book, News and Stationery Trade, 1889. Google Books.
  19. Druggists Directory of the United States and Canada, 1888-89. Google Books.
  20. “The 1890s Drug Store-Intriguing Place.” Independent Register, July 14, 1960, p.6S.
  21. “Lovell always shows rare taste…” Lake County Independent, December 20, 1895, p.5.
  22. “F.B. Lovell has ordered a soda fountain.” Lake County Independent, May 1, 1896, p.4.
  23. “F.B. is papering…” Lake County Independent, August 20, 1897, p.5.
  24. “Village Makes Rapid Progress in 100 Years.”  Independent Register, Souvenir Centennial Edition, June 30, 1936, p.5.
  25. “Lovell, Frank B.” 1900 U.S Census for Libertyville. Library  Edition. Accessed January 6, 2018.
  26. “Libertyville had a spirited election Tuesday.” Cook County Herald, April 21, 1905, p.1.
  27. Annual Report of the State Board of Pharmacy of Illinois, Volume 25. Google Books.
  28. “Frank B. Lovell.” Lake County  Independent, Sep 25, 1903, p. 13
  29. “Death Removes a Splendid Citizen.” Lake County Independent, April 29, 1910, p.5.
  30. “Frank Lovell, The Citizen.” Lake County Independent, May 6, 1910, p. 5
  31. Frank B. Lovell. Find A Grave, Accessed April 28, 2019.
  32. “Swan, James.” 1910 U.S. Census for Libertyville. Library Edition. Accessed July 21, 2019.
  33. “James Hobart Swan.” U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards. 1917-1918. Library Edition. Accessed July 21, 2019.
  34. “The Frank B. Lovell Company.” Lake County Independent, May 20, 1910, p. 4
  35. “In the Drug Store World.” Western Druggist, vol.39. 1917. Google Books.
  36. “Mrs. Lovell, Former OES Matron, Dies. Independent Register, February 2, 1939, p.1
  37. December 1950 Libertyville Telephone Directory, Illinois Digital Archives, Libertyville History Collection. Accessed January 6, 2018.
  38. January 1949 Libertyville Telephone Directory, Illinois Digital Archives, Libertyville History Collection. Accessed January 6, 2018.
  39. “Store has rich history.” Independent Register, April 26, 1956, p.11.
  40. “Petraneks have 171 years of know-how.” Independent Register, April 26, 1956, p.11.
  41. “$700 License: F.B. Lovell Village Treasurer.” Lake County Independent, May 5, 1899, p. 5.
  42. “Lovell, Frank.” 1910 U.S. Census for Libertyville, Illinois. Library  Edition. Accessed August 14, 2019.
  43. The Nautilus, LTHS yearbook, 1937-1942, 1944-1949.
  44. “Frank Wenban May Purchase Drug Store in Libertyville Soon.” The Lake Forester, March 28, 1940, p.14.
  45. “Frank Weban.” Independent Register, October 9, 1975.
  46. “Willis W. Griffis Buys Control of Lake Forest’s Oldest Drug Store.” The Lake Forester, July 6, 1939, p.1.
  47. “Lovell Drug Store Changes Hands Monday, Ending Half Century Under Same Name.” Independent Register, March 25, 1940, p.1.
  48. “Hello Everybody! Libertyville to Have Telephone Service.” Lake County Independent, February 11, 1898, p.5.
  49. Martin, Don. NEIC History Project, 1910-1971. 2007. Cook Memorial Public Library Local History File – Boy Scouts.
  50. “F.B. Lovell Drug store in Libertyville…” Highland Park Press, April 4, 1940, p.11.
  51. Swan, Hobart Krafft. Email interview with Jenny Barry, August 21, 2019.

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