Chicago's Blahnik Pharmacists
The Blahniks of Polenka
Jan Blahnik, his first wife, Anna Bosak, and his second wife, Marie Rejcha, would have children, born in Bohemia. Children of theirs would eventually leave for the United States and initially settle in Iowa and Illinois.
Jan Blahnik was born 8-12-1822 at Smrzovice #16. Jan first married Anna Bosak, of Janovice, before 1845 (based on the 1845 birth of their son, Lorenz) and they had five known children. Anna Bosak Blahnik died on 10-5-1857.
Known children Jan and Anna: Polenka #5; 1-41-1842 Barbara; 9-23-1843 Katerina; 12-29-1845 Lorenz; 4-10-1850 Josef; 3-27-1855 Anna.
Jan married Marie Rejcha on 8-4-1858 in Dolany and had four known children.
Known children Jan and Marie: Polenka #5; 3-20-1861 Marie; 8-1-1863 Vaclav; 3-31-1866 Rosalia; 11-13-1868 Barbara; 3-4-1871 Josefa; 6-12-1877 Magdalena.
Jan died on 11-20-1893 in Polanka, and Marie died on 12-8-1899 in Polanka. Jan and his two wives are all listed as being buried in Polen. (1)
Jan Blahnik - Birth Record - Marriage Record - Death Record
Anna Blahnik - Death Record
Marie Blahnik -Birth Record - Marriage Record - Death Record
Polenka, Polen, Klatovy, Plzen
Polenka is a very small village, just north of Polen. The village is about 10 miles northwest of Klatovy, and 35 miles southwest of Plzen. The earliest date association with the village is 1379. In 2011, it was listed as having 15 addresses and 23 inhabitants. (2)
The first row of maps, shown below, are the 1837 Cadastral map of Polenka. (3)
Maps - Row Above - Polenka from Google Maps.
Maps - Row Below - Images of Polenka #5 from www.mapy.cz. Mapy.cz has a "Street View" feature, similar to Google Maps.
Lorenz Blahnik - The First Czech Pharmacist in Chicago
Lorenz Blahnik was born on 12-29-1844 at Polenka #5 to his father Jan, and Jan's first wife, Anna Bosak. (View Record) (4) Lorenz was their second child known to survive beyond a year or two from birth. Four other children have been discovered so far from this marriage.
An excellent article, published several decades after his death, described that Lorenz Blahnik received his education in Bohemia, along with four years of apprenticeship in Blovice under the direction of pharmacist K. Poteuk. Wishing to have his own pharmacy, but not having resources to do that at home, Lorenz departed for the United States, arriving from Bremen to Baltimore on 10-3-1867, after a long and difficult crossing. The ship's registry already listing Lorenz as a druggist. (View Record) Lorenz first sought his future in the city of Pittsburgh. The article mentioned that he did not fare well in Pittsburgh, not finding work as a pharmacist due to his lack of English speaking skills. Menial jobs, low pay, and a cold winter pushed Lorenz to leave for Chicago. (5)
Lorenz credits the changes for the better in Chicago when he received help from Mr. Pracna, Mr. T. Korinek (slightly misspelled and copied incorrectly on the 1870 Illinois Cook Chicago Ward 9 Page 167 dwelling number 1144 are Thoma Korank and John Braka - Praka on record. They live only a few houses from Lorenz on the 1870 census record) and employment from a German pharmacist named Kharst. (The 1870 Chicago Business Directory lists Lorenz as a pharmacist at 428 S. Jefferson, along with a Thomas Kroink at the same address, but no Kharst is in the directory - www.chicagoancestors.org) Blahnik's ability to attract Czechs to Kharst's business earned him a raise and soon the opportunity to begin his own business. The 1871 Chicago Directory lists Lorenz at 428 S. Jefferson and Thomas Korink as having a new drug store at 622 S. Halsted.
During the time between Lorenz's 1868 arrival in Chicago, and the 1870 census, he was aided by fellow Czechs, employed by a German pharmacist, married Marie Tomsa (who seemed to have lived close by to Lorenz), (while Lorenz and wife Marie have Catholic registry baptism records in Bohemia, a search of the very close by Saint Wenceslaus Catholic Church does not yield a marriage record for them.) and is listed as one of two pharmacists at 428 S. Jefferson. The 1875 Business Directory (www.chicagoancestors.org) only listed Lorenz as a pharmacist at his new location of 88 West 18th Street, and no pharmacy at 428 South Jefferson. The 1880 census confirms Lorenz, as druggist, at the same 88 West 18th Street address. (View Lorenz Blahnik as listed in Chicago Directories - www.chicagoancestors.org)
In 1907, a newpaper article provided an explanation of who took over the 428 S. Jefferson property. "Lorenc Bláhník bought the first larger Czech pharmacy on the corner of 18th Street "Kanalport" as early as 1869, when he had previously sold the small one on Jefferson's corner to Jefferson's corner at DeKoven to the Czech and excellent doctor, Dr. Chládek." (Google Translation of Article) (6)
1871 Chicago Directory (from www.chicagoancestors.org)
Chladek, Anthony, Physician, 428 S. Jefferson, r. 461 S. Canal, w 9 m2 f2 T4, b Bohemia
Lorenz and Marie do not appear to have had any children (probate records for Marie list she had an adopted daughter, Marie, by the time of her 1912 will), but they did not live alone. Lorenz's sister, Anna, Marie's mother, Marie Tomsa, and Marie's sister in law, Louisa Tomsa, spent time with them. Anna Blahnik arrived in the USA on 3-15-1875 in New York City, aboard the ship Hermann. She would marry Frank Frish in 1882 in Chicago.
Blahnik's interests went beyond building his pharmacy. He was involved in Chicago's Czech community. He had political leanings (Republican), and served many times as a ward election judge. (7)
In 1882 the "Clenarska Besede (Literary Association) of Chicago" was incorporated, Lorence Blahnik was listed as one of several Czechs who were the "Incorporators". (8)
Blahnik's business was operating a pharmacy. But he did seem to have a great interest in using that pharmacy to combat a medical threat of the time, small pox. His early advertisements were directed toward providing small pox vaccinations. Small pox appears to have continued as a threat to the Chicago community well into the future. After Lorenz's death, widow Marie is mentioned in an 1894 newspaper article describing the continuing work of Chicago doctors to vaccinate for this disease. (9)
The earliest ads, found so far, for Lorenz Blahnik's Pharmacy included advertisement on his work to combat small pox. (10)
Smallpox! Vaccination !
L. Blahník vaccinates
In his pharmacy, No. 88, 18th Street; in addition, in Tuesday, every Thursday in the afternoon in the home B. Skuders, no. 105 Fisk Streetl. I have an experienced German doctor to help.
Lorenz died on August 1, 1888, from a heart condition that had developed several years prior. His wife Marie continued on, becoming the first woman Czech pharmacist in Chicago, as well as the first woman Czech pharmacist in the United States. Lorenz's step brother, Vencel (Vaclav) would help Marie from time to time, also becoming a pharmacy owner and having two sons continue in the pharmacy business and another son became a medical doctor. An article has been found suggesting that step brother Vencel may have owned Lorenz's pharmacy after his death, and sold it back to Marie. Another article found does not suggest that at all. (11)
I also became friends with Mr. Vavřinec Blahník,........ I lived over Blahník's pharmacy for a short time and spent many pleasant moments in the company of pharmacist Blahník and his noble wife. Blahník was an idealist, whose burning youthful imagery tirelessly flew into all the early fields of beauty in his volatile bustle, and we often recited "Three Times of the Czech Land" by Jablonský, "Wedding Shirt" by Erben in the late night time with a glass of sparkling wine. and other Czech poems. These were adorable moments and he wished he would never return. My faithful friend has been dormant for a long time, while I am still wandering in the miserable world of Ahasverus, searching in vain for a pinch of human satisfaction and peace. (12)
Mr. Lorenc Blahník worked in this place as a conscientious and experienced pharmacist, who enjoyed the trust of both doctors and compatriots of all Czech districts in Chicago until his death, which came in 1889, after which he said goodbye to his beloved and deeply grieved wife and was transported to the last rest at Národní during a large procession of friends and acquaintances. The perpetuated L. Blahník belonged to the Order of Prague C.S.P.S. Ass’n a The State Board of Health. As a national man and a zealous worker, he was known in both national and social and political life, proving to his party many valid services and fully exemplary duties of the citizen of Sp. States. A sincere patriot and an educated man, he enjoyed the favor of all national circles, and therefore let him be given due honor even after his death. In October 1880, he passed the exam as a doctor, but only in his pharmacy did he deal with it. (13)
(1) Polanka Records - https://www.portafontium.eu/contents/register/soap-pn/cirkev-rimskokatolicka/polen
(5) "From Old Memories", Duch Casu, Czech Language Newspaper, publisher August Geringer, Chicago, November 1, 1908 Page 3
(6) "From Old Memories", Duch Casu, Czech Language Newspaper, publisher August Geringer, Chicago, Septemember 29, 1907, Page 20.
(7) Chicago Tribune listings of Lorenz Blahnik serving as ward election judge: 3-20-1876 Page 5, 3-11-1882 Page 16, 3-13-1885 Page 10. The Inter Ocean Newspaper: 2-9-1886 Page 3.
(8) The Illinois State Journal, newspaper, Springfield, Illinois, 2-2-1882, Page 6.
(9) "The Bohemian Pharmacist", The Inter Ocean Newspaper, Chicago, Sunday, June 10, 1894, Page 37.(Pox) Duch času: Czech Language Newspaper, publisher August Geringer, Chicago, May 4, 1879, Page 152.
(10) Advertisement, Duch Casu, Czech Language Newspaper, publisher August Geringer, Chicago, April 5, 1879, Page 152,
(11) Vencel Blahnik owns step brother Lorenz Blahnik pharmacy after Lorenz's death: History of Cook County - Editors: Weston A. Goodspeed, LL.B. and Daniel Healy, The Goodspeed Historical Association Chicago, 1909, Hammond Press, W. B. Conkey Company Chicago, Page 685. Vencel not mentioned as owning the pharmacy: Duch Casu, Czech language newspaper, August Geringer Publisher, Chicago, "From Old Memories" – Marie Blahnik - 11-1-1908 Page 3.
(12) "From the memories of a Czech doctor in America. A contribution to the history of the Czech Americans. Served by Dr. Jan Habeniclit. (Written in 1897.)" Duch času: Czech language newspaper, August Geringer Publisher, Chicago, 12.11.1899, Page 102.
(13) Duch Casu, Czech language newspaper, August Geringer Publisher, Chicago, "From Old Memories" – Marie Blahnik - 11-1-1908 Page 3.