Charles Rudolph Walgreen

Charles Rudolph Walgreen Sr. (October 9, 1873 – December 11, 1939) was an American businessman and the founder of Walgreens.

Charles Rudolph Walgreen
Charles R. Walgreen.jpg
Born(1873-10-09)October 9, 1873
DiedDecember 11, 1939(1939-12-11) (aged 66)
Alma materDixon Business College
OccupationFounder of Walgreens
SpouseMyrtle Norton Walgreen[1]
ChildrenCharles Rudolph Walgreen Jr.
Ruth Walgreen


He was born in Dixon, Illinois, before moving to Galesburg, Illinois, at a young age. He was the son of Swedish immigrants.

In the 1790s, Charles's great-great-great-grandfather, Sven Olofsson, adopted the surname Wahlgren (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈvɑ̂ːlɡreːn])[citation needed] during his military service, a family fact passed down over the generations. When Charles's father, Carl Magnus Olofsson, came to America from Sweden, he decided to change the family name to Walgreen.[2] When Charles was still quite young he and his family relocated to Dixon, Illinois, in 1887. He attended Dixon High School, Dixon Business College. He was a member of the international fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon.[3]

As a young adult, he lost part of a finger in an accident at a shoe factory. The doctor who treated him persuaded him to become an apprentice for a local druggist. His interest in pharmacy dated from the time he was employed by D.S. Horton, a druggist in Dixon where he was apprenticed as a pharmacist. In 1893, Walgreen went to Chicago and became a registered pharmacist.[4] At the start of the Spanish–American War, Walgreen enlisted with the 1st Illinois Volunteer Cavalry. While serving in Cuba, he contracted malaria and yellow fever, which continued to plague him for the rest of his life.[5]


After his discharge, Walgreen returned to Chicago and worked as a pharmacist for Isaac Blood. In 1901, he opened a second store in 1909 and by 1916 owned nine drug stores, which he incorporated as Walgreen Co. 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. By 1927, Walgreen had established 110 stores.

His son Charles Rudolph Walgreen Jr. (March 4, 1906 – February 10, 2007) and grandson Charles R. Walgreen III both shared his name and played prominent roles in the company he founded. His daughter, Ruth Walgreen, married Justin Whitlock Dart, who left the Walgreens company after they divorced and went on to control the rival Rexall Drug Stores in 1943.[6] Ruth, in her adult years a published poet, eventually remarried and began spending winters in Tucson, Arizona, where in the early 1960s, she was instrumental in establishing the Poetry Center at the University of Arizona.

He is a member of the Labor Hall of Fame.


  1. ^ [1] Archived July 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ America's Corner Store: Walgreen's Prescription for Success Google Books
  3. ^ "BACKTRACKING". Retrieved December 11, 2014.
  4. ^ "U.S. Department of Labor - Labor Hall of Fame - Charles R. Walgreen". Archived from the original on May 10, 2009. Retrieved June 17, 2009.
  5. ^ "LEE COUNTY ILLINOIS GENEALOGY AND HISTORY". Retrieved December 11, 2014.
  6. ^ [2] Archived April 24, 2005, at the Wayback Machine


  • Griffin, Marie. Industry 'Legends' Deserve Recognition (Drug Store News, October 9, 1995)
  • Ingham, John N. Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983)
  • Van Doren, Charles, ed. Webster's American Biographies (Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1979)

External linksEdit