Chicago's Blahnik Pharmacists
Marie Tomsa Blahnik
Marie Tomsa was born on 12-18-1841 in Chlistov, district of Klatovy, region of Plzen to Anthony and Marie. (1) View Birth Record
In a straight line, Chlistov is about 15 miles from Polenka, the village where her husband Lorenz Blahnik was born. The village has a website (Chlistov) Maps from www.mapy.cz. Cadastral Map 1837 from https://ags.cuzk.cz/archiv/.
“Mrs. Marie Blahnik died Wednesday, April 22, 1914, at her home, 1225 S. Harding Avenue, Chicago. She was born at Christov, Bohemia. Some forty years ago she came to America, and while she always remained true to Bohemia and Bohemians, she was a most loyal American citizen and dearly loved her adopted country, and all the activity and progress for which it stands.
She was one of the oldest druggists, in years of service, in the city of Chicago. In the years when women pharmacists were almost unheard of, Mrs. Blahnik was successfully conducting a pharmacy of her own on West Eighteenth Street, which store continued in her possession until the time of her death, although for some years past, she had not taken an active part behind the counter.
She was a modest, womanly woman, “true as steel,” kind to everyone, over ready and anxious to extend a helping hand wherever assistance was needed. She had many, many friends, among both the Bohemians and the Americans. “Those who knew her best, loved her most” – could be said most truly of Mrs. Blahnik.
She was for many years a member of the Ill. PH. A.m the A., Ph, A,. the C.R.D. A, N.A.R.D., the W. Ph. A. and the Chicago chapter of the W.O.N.A.R.D. For years she was the Honorary President of the Woman’s Pharmaceutical Association and many times in her own, true, hospitable manner, entertained the members in her home. ……” (2)
Marie Tomsa, and her mother Marie, arrived in the United States before 1870. Several articles reference a date, but no actual document has been found. Marie Tomsa married Lorenz Blahnik before 1870. One would have thought as both of them lived very close to Saint Wenceslaus Catholic Church, they would have married in that church. No record has been found there. (Both of their birth / baptismal records were listed in Czech village parishes.) There, then, exists the possibility they were "Free Thinkers".
From the 1871 Chicago directory through1880 census lists Lorenz and Marie as living and working at the same address of 88 West 18th St. (3) (Marie's mother would remain living with Marie through 1900. She died in 1903 and is buried in the same family grave site.) Those census records list Marie as working at home, or a house wife. It is not hard though, to imagine that Marie actually helped around the pharmacy during that time period, learning the pharmacy business by just watching or working with Lorenz. When Lorenz died in 1888 Marie stepped right into the pharmacy business, most likely aided by almost two decades working with her husband. As Lorenz took an active role in the Czech community, it would be understandable that Marie would become involved in supporting other Czech women to enter the world of business, and to become involved in the social and cultural associations and events in the growing Czech community of Chicago.
Husband, Lorenz, died August 1, 1888. He was buried in Bohemian National Cemetery, Lot 3, Block 6, Section F. (Find A Grave 132940543). Marie would graduate from the Chicago College of Pharmacy in 1890. (This institution and date has been mentioned in many articles, yet the Chicago Tribune news of those graduations, does not contain her name.) Marie would be helped by the arrival of Lorenz’s step brother Wenzel (Vaclav, Vencel) in Chicago. Wenzel was born in 1863. The earliest discovered records show him living, marrying and having his first two children born in Iowa. Articles related to Wenzel also list a graduation from a pharmacy college in Chicago, in 1888, but again no newspaper announcement for the pharmacy colleges list his name. One newspaper article indicated that at the time of Marie’s and Wenzel’s schooling and state registration, the rules were different. (4)
(Advertisement listing Marie Blahnik Pharmacy, 10-10-1897, Duch Casu, Czech Language newspaper, Page 32.)
While Wenzel was involved in, and helped Marie in her pharmacy, Wenzel would eventually have drug stores of his own. Several of his children would also become pharmacists and one would become a doctor.
Census records list Marie as a druggist, or proprietor of a pharmacy, but the newspaper articles begin to indicate her growing prominence within the Czech community. During the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, Marie was listed as a member of the Bohemian Delegation, and made a presentation, “Progress in Pharmacy” at the Exposition. (5) At this time Marie was also working with Josepha Humpal Zeman. They would collaborate on several occasions. Josepha would eventually found the first woman’s printing company in Chicago, and the first Czech language newspaper owned and published by Czech women. Marie and Josepha were central to one of the important Czech social events during the Exposition, a festive affair, a banquet and gathering of the Bohemian community to celebrate Anton Dvorak, famed composer on his arrival to Chicago and his musical performance at the Exposition. (6) (Image Marie Blahnik) (7)
Zenske Listy was established in 1894 by Josefa Humpal-Zeman in Chicago as the first Bohemian women's newspaper in the world. The Bohemian Women's Publishing Company that published the newspaper was later reorganized by fifty women as a stock company in 1895 and by 1899, the company published the paper on a weekly basis and produced programs, pamphlets, calling cards, tickets, and other items used by Czech businesses and professionals in Chicago. Mary Cunat (Marie Cunatova) served as president and Mary Blahnik (Marie Blahnikova) as vice-president of the company while Josefa Humpal-Zeman remained editor and general manager. (8) (Zenske Listy Kvety Americka newspaper Omaha Nebraska 11-28-1901 Page 24) (Note address for Zenske Listy is only a few blocks down on 18th street from Marie's pharmacy)
The “Kalendar of Bohemian Women”, published in 1898 by Marie’s friend, Josepha Zeman contained an article of Maries. Marie also wrote several other articles for the Zenske Listy. (9)
In 1894, the Inter Ocean, a Chicago newspaper, published an interesting article of how volunteer doctors were working in neighborhoods filled with immigrant families to combat small pox. The doctors were providing vaccine injections to as many people as they could. The article describes one doctor meeting Marie Blahnik, who defended the Czech immigrants as being people who would follow all health laws and participate in the inoculation efforts. (10)
“Časopis českého lékárnictva”, a Czech pharmacy magazine / newspaper from Prague, in 1895 described their visit during the Columbian Exposition and how impressed they were with the pharmacy and accomplishments of Marie Blahnik. In 1900 they published another article on Marie’s involvement of planning and hosting the Ball of Czech Pharmacists in Chicago. (11)
The American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record 1903 mentioned Marie Blahnik as a founding member of the Women’s Pharmaceutical Association, begun in Chicago. They went on to describe how their exhibit at the World’s Exposition won a gold medal for their organization. (12)
Marie also had business interests outside the realm of the pharmacy and its associated activities.
In 1896, The Inter Ocean newspaper listed as, “Licensed to do Business”, having filed Articles of Association: Damsky Shoe Amerika. Matice Pro Skoly V Cechach. Incorporators, Clementina Nowak, Marie Blahnik and J. L. Veselska. (13)
She had real estate. She rented apartments and buildings which she owned. (Images Below - Real Estate Advertisements for Marie Blahnik (14))
Marie was active in efforts to promote the involvement and accomplishments of Czech women.
In 1900 the Chicago Directory still listed Marie’s pharmacy at 88 W. 18th, but in 1910 the Chicago Directory listed her pharmacy at 534 W. 18th and her home address at 1225. S. Harding. (Image Below - Far Right - 1225 S. Harding - (15))
Translated used Google Translate
“In her apartment in No. 1225 S. Harding Avenue, a well-known compatriot, a zealous federal worker and owner of a pharmacy in no. 538 West 18th Street, Mrs. Marie Bláhníková and her death came suddenly, the price of the heart attack, as the doctor called. Mrs. Bláhníková lived in the given number with her sister Mrs. Louisa Weirauchová, her husband and her cousin Mrs. Barbora Šebelfková.
Mrs. Weirauch went out after breakfast to do some shopping, and before she returned, her sister was dead. Although Mrs. Blachníková had suffered a stroke a long time ago, she recovered from this so far that she was able to make a living out of her life, and as a result, her sudden death surprised all her friends and acquaintances. The deceased went with her husband to America in 1868, and the following year Mr. Blahnlk opened a pharmacy, which he later moved to 18th Street, and when he died 25 years ago. She became a pharmacist and ran the same until the present time.”
On the death report of Pi. Marie Blahníková, one of the oldest and most famous of our settlements, which we brought yesterday, it should be added that the deceased was born in Christ, near Klatovy in Bohemia and in America for 46 years, belonged to the Vlasta Choir, No. 19 J. Č. D., Loži Libuše No. 28 No. SJ, to the Old Czech Settlers and to several associations of foreign unions. The death of her, apart from numerous acquaintances and friends, is the surviving sister, brother-in-law, niece and cousin, to whom deep and sincere condolences are expressed. The funeral of the deceased will take place on Sunday, on the 26th day of the house of mourning No. 1225 already. Harding ave. at 12 noon to the Czech National Cemetery. (Google Translation) (Marie Blahnik Obituary) (16)
While no children appear to have been born to Lorenz and Marie, somewhere, over the course of time. Marie adopted a daughter. Her will, made in 1912, lists an adopted daughter and a portion of Marie’s estate was for this adopted daughter. (17) But there exists a good chance that Marie’s adopted daughter was the daughter of her sister. Marie Weirauch was born 1-12-1890 in Chicago. On 7-3-1914 Marie Blahnik married Howson Willmore. Marie W. Willmore, with a birth record of 1-12-1890 died in 1988 in New Mexico.
Husband Lorenz Blahnik (Find A Grave #132940543) , Wife Marie Tomsa Blahnik (Find A Grave #143293761) and Marie's mother, Marie Tomsa (Find A Grave #143293031) are buried in Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago (Lot 3 Block 4 Section F).
(2) The Midland Druggist and Pharmaceutical Review, Volume 48, The Midland Publishing Company, Columbus, Ohio, 1914, Page 328.
(3) Directories - www.chicagoancestors.org Census 1880 - Year: 1880; Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: 188; Page: 250A; Enumeration District: 049
(4) “Fair Hands Mix Pills”, The Chicago Tribune, 10-11-1916, Page 42.
(5) “From Old Memories”, Duch Casu, Czech language newspaper, Publisher August Geringer, Volume 32, Issue 7, 1-11-1908, Page 99.
(6) “Heard his own songs”, The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois, 8-15-1893, Page 3.
(7) Image Marie Blahnik - The Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, 12-11-1898, Page 36.
(8) Explore Chicago Collections: https://explore.chicagocollections.org/ead/uic/25/dk5n/
(9) “Mrs. Josefa H. Zeman Publishes A Book For Bohemians”, The Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, 12-11-1898, Page 36.
(10) “The Bohemian Pharmacist”, The Inter Ocean newspaper, Chicago, Illinois, 6-10-1894, Page 37.
(11) “Časopis českého lékárnictva“. Czech pharmacy magazine. In Prague: Emil Graf, November 10, 1895, Page 407. And June 5, 1900, Page 16.
(12) “The Woman’s Pharmaceutical Association”. American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record, Editor Caswell A. Mayo, Volume 42, New York, 1903, Page 145.
(13) “Licensed to do Business”, The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Ilinois, 2-18-1896, Page 9.
(14) The Chicago Tribune: Rent: 7 room flat, business place, 9-29-1906, Page 14 and 8 room flat, 4-12-1907, Page 15.
(15) 1225 South Harding 2006 Cook County Assessor - on their website - https://www.cookcountyassessor.com/pin/16231010130000.
(16) Denni Hlasatel, Chicago Czech language newspaper, Publisher August Geringer, Chicago, Illinois, 4-23-1914, page 1.
(17) Record of Wills, Book 87-88, 1914, Page 437. Ancestry.com, Illinios, U.S. Wills and Probate Records, 1772-1999.